Walking the dog, it comes. Out of nowhere, or somewhere almost forgotten.
If my words did glow
With the gold of sunshine
Out loud. Into this ordinary day, I sing.
This is the first time in months my voice has opened like this. It is not the first song, no – there’s always the radio, always mugging for neighborhood kids.
But like this? Just the day, the dog, and me? I am new all over again.
Continue reading “To Fill The Air”
She scrapes bow across strings whose low moan rises to a shriek. Her elbow a piston, it turns the wrist in a blurred ellipse that frees a cry, a frenzy. Two boys appear from behind the stage, leaping sideways across the brush that separates this place from the garden plots where an old woman in a headscarf shambles between rows watering broad petals of cabbage. One of the children waves a stick like a flag. His face is a wide grin that says, see me, see me.
Another boy in a man’s body perches on the edge of a chair on this portable stage. Shaggy hair falls across his forehead as he leans into the music. He is from Ireland and lives in Portland where he has his pick of women. He does to the accordion what Kobe Bryant does to a ball. We call this thing “playing,” this version of play unlike anything the rest of us will ever experience.
Bent at the waist ever so slightly, he gazes far off towards what must be the west where a weary August sun peels back the day’s skin and exposes the pink, swollen flesh of dusk. The grown boy’s fingers are dervishes in harmonious riot, balletic and blind, somehow whirling an unbroken ensemble piece on that tiny stage of keys. I look where he is looking — in the direction at least because what he sees is all his own. I want to imagine his eyes fixed on a montage of hills, rain, soil-scarred hands lifting open a latch and reaching for him. Just as likely, behind his eyes growls a gauntlet of fractured traffic between the airport and the next gig. Or a dim wash of notes. When I look that way, I see only the deep outline of trees against a sky now a garnet throb.
Then the breath, the snared half-second of surprise when bow and key and string and drum, all stop —
it’s only a pulse of the heart yet it stretches, stretches like the still air across embouchure, its reverberation through a valley of brass. It stretches like a quantum measure that is neither real nor measurable. Swelling up into that pause (which may be the end of all history and also may not contain a single new beginning) surges the cry of cicadas thick in the shadowed branches. Through the crack too flaps the leather wing of one bat dipping for a moth then careening off, this also in the direction our accordion boy looks but doesn’t see. Not what I see see anyway, and certainly not what the bat sees, though his vision may be closer to that of his chiropteran brother, a sightless echoing that delineates a terrain through sound, through a chorus of shape and motion. Maybe he draws a whole universe like this, one round, rapid beat after another firing across a field of night.
Unlike the other members of the band who splice the set together with self-deprecating anecdotes, the dude on piano and bodhran is a potty white-haired fellow who never speaks or cracks a joke. I have him pegged as the invisible base that holds up on 4/4 solid legs the tone and flourish that the fiddlers and singers — the real artists — splash across score.
The last song swells to its finish, the crowd cheers, the other musicians walk off. They leave him there lost in something as he messes with his drum. He looks up and glances around like he just noticed everyone else is gone. After a few confused and awkward seconds, he starts to tap a stick against the skin of the drum. It takes a few seconds for the audience to realize that something entirely new is happening.
The next 6 minutes are this with 6 years of mastery added:
The 2015 Martin O’Neill plays on stage alone, handling the drum with such precision that he’s making a melody from it. It’s skittering over scales, almost singing on top of its own rip-cracking beat. Then it shushes down, down before curving around what feels like a moan.
My heart is galloping but can’t keep up.
The beat topples all my assumptions.
A little skin stretched over a frame, balanced on one knee and worked with two expert hands, somehow produces how many thousand tones?
It’s humbling to find out yet again what a poor guide my judgment can be, how very little I know about anything at all.
It’s exhilarating to let this new flavor fill my blood, to know how much more is waiting to split wide my husk of certainty.
The remarkable sifter and curator, DMF, over at SyntheticZero posted a comment to Everything is Music with a link to Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Paul Simon playing Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes.
On the eve of an unwelcome anniversary and bracing for another night fighting off the devils that eat sleep, here I am in bed now, singing and dancing — yes, dancing alone in bed! — with the warmest thrill from smile to toes.
Now this word from Ernie & Bert:
Thank you for the most buoyant lullaby a girl could hope for, DMF. (And thank you, lambies.)
He points to Sting and Bob Marley,
his eyes hopscotching sideways
over walls of worn bright album covers
all the way to the ceiling, lighting
up for the first time
as salsa music and hissing milk
steam the room and warp
corners that squeeze
us into the proximity
and nexts. Shots
in hot mugs clank against laughing teeth.
He slides forward in his seat
back again. When India Arie
escorted Stevie Wonder to the stage
he tells me, she kissed him on the cheek.
The next morning beach balls
soar through the sanctuary,
the whole congregation plays
on kazoos but only after the Jewish
minister of this Unitarian church
wishes everyone a happy Hanukkah
as he juggles.
Joy to the fishies
in the deep blue sea, brass
horns blow fat bubbles of light
across a swaying crowd, on feet,
Joy to you and me.
This is morning’s prelude
to dusk as it rides in on fiddle and flute.
Clapping stomp dancing feet
chase a reel as it vaults off the skin
of an Irish drum then ricochets around the belly
of a bouzouki swollen with Miss Fogarty’s
Christmas cake and strung
with cinnamon berry and gold.
Cresting and crashing
our lustrous flesh resounds
with chords carried by tides of vinyl,
voice, reed, steel. Air, all of it,
curving through the space between cells
and what they create,
our eyes half closed awake
to colors that do not exist in our language,
fingers tracing hieroglyphs
of that ancient tongue
across the sky.
Last night, I danced at my cousin’s wedding. Danced like a toddler does, right up front.
I’m guessing everyone else out there enjoyed Sara Bareilles’ music video for “Brave” at some point in the past two years. I just today discovered it on About Face, a website promoting positive body image.
Just as she intends, Bareilles’ video shivers open a smile that leaks tears.
Remember the game you used to play in the doorway? You stand facing out and press the backs of your hands hard against the doorjamb. You push there, muscles working, and count. Twenty, thirty, one hundred. Then you step out, and after a breath, marvel as they rise.
As if invisible threads.
As if a secret deal to suspend the laws of physics.
For most of the hours in most of the days, I push hard against something. The clock, a hunger, my doubts, someone’s needs.
The deadline breathing fierce at the base of my skull.
The flashing cursor, the buzzing phone.
It seems a whole life becomes this pressed angle, wedged here in a narrow doorway. I barely recall the name for air.
Until song calls me out, and shows me again the secret to tricking gravity.
Even on a day that saps breath, beat
Night, home, a high whine
sears the deep ear. When veering toward bed
or bread or any
the last throb of momentum, habit
is the last hope.
Calabria, thud and sway
already in motion,
churn flesh inside
out. Turn up
here like sleepwalking
to Messina, like emerging
at the first dawn.