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Three Poems (Partly By Me, and Partly By…’Someone Else’).

January 8, 2014

Hello to everyone out there in Internet-land, especially to everyone who’s following my blog. I hope everyone’s doing well, and thinking and reading about things that interest them. Lately, I, your Overgrounder, have been thinking a lot about poetry, which is one thing that interests me more than anything else in the world. In my last article – So Nice They did it Thrice #1 – I explored a song that was partly about the dichotomy between poetry and popular music, and mentioned that I’m a poet myself. In my second-to-last article, Drab Bards, I wrote about What Not to Do when writing poetry, and about the two books that explain this in more-than-lurid detail. I’ve always been fascinated by poetry, and it is one of my greatest ambitions to be respected as a poet. When I’m writing poetry, I feel like I’m doing something I was born to do. With all that in mind, I felt it was time for your Overgrounder to post some handwritten poetry. So, here are three poems, that I’ve recited at poetry slams even though I wrote them to be read on the page, written partly by me, and partly by…‘someone else’.

The ‘someone else’ mentioned above, who the poems are partly by, is Jack Shaman. I put quotation marks around ‘someone else’ because Jack Shaman is actually a character of my own invention. He is – or he will be – the protagonist of a novel that I’ve been working on for more years than I care to admit. Tentatively titled The Mutant Sound, and set in the early 1960’s, the novel tells of how a young man calling himself Jack Shaman leaves his small and uptight hometown, and comes to New York City with dreams of becoming a folk singer or a rock ‘n roll star. I wrote these poems in Jack Shaman’s voice, or in what I imagine Jack Shaman’s voice to be, and I intended them to sound like surrealistic liner notes.  (I must confess here that Jack Shaman and his story are the reasons I get so worked up about novels that imply that no earthly good can come of rock ‘n’ roll – for evidence of this, read my article about Don Delillo’s Great Jones Street).

I hope you enjoy reading these poems – I certainly enjoyed writing them – and I hope they pique your interest in Jack Shaman and The Mutant Sound. If you want to hear more about Jack Shaman – more poems by him, or part of the novel your Overgrounder is writing about him – or if you just want to know more about what inspires me to write poetry, please tell me in the Comments section.

OneJack Shaman’s Muse.

And so I fled the House on Castle Street…
At least I thought I did. Or wished I had.
I didn’t, really. I sat around the house. I mused.
In my dream,
In my glamorous fantasy,
I rushed  out on a quest, for the Golden Muse.
Her hooves look like high heels.
Moonlight becomes her.
But she’s not too pretty to get her feet wet.
I remember,
Once,
She took one look at Joe Crowe
She looked into his eyes, and said ‘My name is Baby Blue,’
And that tawdry fraud just burned on back to his rabbit hole like an
electrified Marshmallow Peep; like a bilious human rawhide chew toy
Sticking a knife into a dog’s head.
My muse guards the imagination’s radiance.
Her charms are saved for artists,
And only she can say the words
That match the music in my heart.

And now I stand outside this troubled city.
I stand mute against the fencing and gnaw on my rage
At these idiotic conventions I see everywhere in this society.
Boredom has been forced onto me.
But when I meet my muse,
In that sudden sweet tumult when we dance under the stars to the music
Of strawberry-red radios,
It’ll be plush after rain, as good as velvet.
It’ll be sweet,
Sweet like two creatures with nothing to lose.
We’ll rush together, spritelike,
Through the ultralight frontiers of this land,
Until we discover our own,
Crystal kingdom.

TwoJack Shaman’s Ambitions.

To emerge a folk hero (with a mad jester’s soul) from the sleek,
Soulful bloodstained Faberge mouth of the most fabulous trickster. To spring onto the stage like a force of radical
Exotic gemstone nature, just like some fanged or cats’-eye-colored fish.
To waltz cool and slow in some shady grove, with six glittering harlequins.
To kiss a witch, touched by musical scandal.
(Or cover her with honey and eat her up).
To be as cagey as a house that’s shingled
With genuine and germane human hearts.

To burst into the supermarket like a bugbear,
And ask the stock-boy if he’s ever heard the sound of a wick burning,
And see him burst into tears. That always makes the hunger go away…
For a while.
To bite my tongue and feed on my own hunger.
To stand back and sneer as the staring stags demand
You there! Stop imitating the boy next door this instant,  you filthy fifth
columnizing fiend, you dirty, stinking rotten Commie rat!”
To turn my back on them and listen in awe,
As antelopes wail and electric lights trumpet.
To fly over rooftops, fly over ditches,
Fly over skylines without any hitches,
While the boss’s brother begs,
Will Governor Gordon refuse to let
This melancholy young murderer die?’
To vanish (Without a trace)
From this miniaturizing put-on shop,
And never again return.
Sincerely, Jack Shaman.

Three – ‘One of Coyotes People.’

Malcontented, bloodied-but-unbowed,
Hiding himself inside a plain brown wrapper,
Wearing – boots for breaking wild horses,
A battered jacket,
An ancient hat pulled down low over his eyes.
He’s one of Coyote’s people a born trickster.

You don’t get to be as big a deal as he is by being a piece of angel-cake.
Because he’s seen disaster – been captured by bandits,
Near eaten by ogres,
Spat at by soldiers.
He’ started fires,
Shot at tigers,
Crossed wires,
Fought with liars,
Stared, with sadistic glitter, into the posturing eyes of hacks,
(Those who thought that love was something you could advertise.)
He knows that bets and calm cold threats and tokens you can buy,
Are drugstore’s signs of happiness – I mean, a dirty lie.
He’s set himself against it all, and that is really why,
He’s one of Coyotes people a born trickster.
They say he was enchanted by a mad enchanter,
Cast out, in pain,
From his home on the secret plains,
Forced to wander endlessly,
All down through our dark history,
To burn – so bright, so gloriously
Wreathed in his mystic melancholy.
And so he has. I mean, he’s been hit pretty good,
He’s sat a bit in his own blood. He’s stared down into several rosy voids or flowery mists,
Sometimes he’s faded away into them.
But he’s come back, electric and dangerous,
To sing out the confounding blues, gladsome and silvery,
To sing out coldly, heedless as an elf,
Of the magic overlooked with our present day,
The mystery living in the ether,
Coursing and forcing itself through our world.
The bright, dread dream of lost and sacred ground.
He plays hide-and-seek with the world,
(Presents himself like a fanciful vision)
And changes people just like
Fanciful visions do.
For he’s one of Coyotes people a born trickster.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mea permalink
    January 9, 2014 11:56 pm

    Elizabeth I had no idea you wrote poetry, I enjoyed it and look forward to your jack shaman novel

  2. Sandy Cleland permalink
    January 13, 2014 9:10 pm

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I must admit I’m at a loss to understand some of the meaning of yor poems but fortunately I don’t need to fully understand something to like it. And I know what I like and I liked (and enjoyed) your poems. Please let me know when you post more.

    Thanks,
    Sandy (Clete as your old man calls me)

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