Archive for September, 2015

Grace Jones Live

Posted: September 28, 2015 in Uncategorized
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grace-jones-chris-levine
I chose sleep over the blood moon last night and woke up to good news for a change. A poem I’d been tinkering with over the past few weeks surprised me by being accepted in a journal. I included a draft of it in a submission package a while back and its acceptance this morning made my heart lovingly rattle in my chest. Did the moonlight light up some darkened part of my chart? The woman at the bakery offered my the largest peach muffin they made. The bus driver, a queenly woman I’ve seen most days over the last couple of weeks, cheerfully honked and waved at me over the weekend while driving a different line. This morning on my regular commute, she said: Did you know that was me? and we exchanged names and I felt like a shy schoolboy for even asking.

That I was without any weed over the weekend made me very productive. I got out of the house first thing Sunday and went down to the café to write. More of a clearing my head: six unlined pages, shaking thoughts from my mind like a wet dog shaking water off itself.

A while ago I wrote notes for a poem inspired by laying on the beach at Pyramid Lake and being awakened by shooting stars and the choir like waves of the water. A couple of the best lines in those notes were used already in another piece. But looking over the remaining notes during my session yesterday, I was able to rescue the unused lines and thread them into something different.

Another rough poem, a memory piece involving my grandfather, has disappointed me yet again. At some point I’d typed and printed it and made a bunch of edits then left it unfinished. I took that poem and applied the edits but it still doesn’t have much of a narrative and worse, it doesn’t end it just stops. There’s value there, something’s going on, but it needs a radically different form or way of telling the story. I will have to break open the poem and my expectations of it and create something totally unexpected and new.

The little neighborhood café I was in began to fill and get busy and by the time it got noisy and crowded I was already a bit thought-fatigued and ready to take a walk. I got some supplies at the supermarket and went home and cleaned house.

Over and over I listened to Williams Blood by Grace Jones while I swept and Pine-solved my apartment. The night before, I saw Grace Jones live. I was neither drunk (I had a single shot of Maker’s Mark which was no more dizzying than a spoon of cough syrup) nor high and I’m going to use the words Thrilling and Breathtaking to describe that show, which could be one of the best live concerts I’ve ever seen. I expected something theatrical which I got, and then some. A body painted Grace hoola-hooping through Slave To The Rhythm I expected, but she brought so much more, in terms of fashion and fun and control of the stage. The hoola-hoop stunt would have been enough, but she encored with Hurricane while wrapped in a black cape while standing before an offstage wind machine and holding onto a strippers pole. Several times I turned to my friend and said: She’s 67?? He nodded yes. The aforementioned William’s Blood was a new song to me. She performed it in the middle of the show (“We’re going to church,” she said wearing, what best constitutes an appropriate Church crown for Ms. Jones) and it was enthralling. Both as she staged it visually and now my ear can’t get enough of it.

I went with my coworker who’s a couple years older than me, openly gay and said he expected to see “a lot of people from the past” out there. He did. A youngster in a tight knit cap that seemed like something he’d wear 24/7 that my friend said was probably ‘concealing some secrets’. It was a queer positive and diverse house. We sat on a cement planter just at the corner from the venue after the show was over, him smoking and me processing the experience. Of all the concerts I’ve attended, this is the only one I didn’t immediately leave. I sat with him while he finished his cigarette and watched the parade of people. Men and women, men in LED-lined fur jackets, women in mini dresses with delicious thighs. Dudes dressed as Urban Cowboys, Village People-style police, and a very skinny member of 300 people fresh back from Burning Man, people like me in jeans and a t-shirt, people dressed more formal, people in glitter. Ripped t-shirts and dinner jackets. Slick bald dudes with scraggly beards and a woman with three kids, maybe a 12 year old right up through college freshmen, I guess. All of us were brought together in love and got an extraordinary show. I don’t think I will ever need to go see another live concert. Grace, looking as if she were having as good a time as we were, killed it for everybody. As expected.

adopted

Only today did I realize the website Xanga saved my blog entries from 2007. I thought they were gone forever. I’m struggling to save them/upload them/ double check their worth. But since I haven’t posted in a while, I found this and decided to share it. From what I remember, this was me responding to an email my biological sister sent me after I vanished into radio silence. Her email lines are in bold, I responded below on that blog. Of course, I never sent this (what did I send?). I never expected her to read my email, never expected people to read that older blog, and don’t expect anyone to read this one. If you do read this, know that over the last few years, I have learned to let go. I let everything go.

***

What’s up with U?  No, hear from, NO see. 
          When I stopped hanging around family, my life improved.  I noticed the complex composition of birdcalls.  I lost weight.  I learned to dance.  To enjoy sunlight.  Hadn’t really called because I hadn’t missed you.  You’d failed to give me anything to miss.
 
Heard U were on the pitty potty, struggling with an identity issue.
            I spent that time weeping, realizing if this is family, I’m fucked.
 
Well just 2 let U know brother a little about your history.  What ever year U were born,  (if I was good with numbers, would be living N RENO)
                1968.  I won’t hold you to remembering the actual date or anything…. 
 
Our entire family had moved from Lousiana, Granny, Grandfather, Me, Daisy, Pete, Willie was a baby.  Mom and Dad were the only ones working, struggling 2 provide food and basic esssentials.
                 I met Granny a year before she died.  Small framed, Black with strong Native American features.  Saw her once at the house where she lived in East Oakland, thereafter in the rest home where she stayed until her final days.  She was fascinated by me, I think, because I resembled my father– whom I never met.  He’d died of cancer before I found out I was adopted, and the man I called Father was actually a kind of permanent temp.  Anyways: granny would look at me, reach out for my face as if it were a mirage and call my father’s name, “Henry.  Henry.”  Like me, he was an only child.  Odd how many things connect with the people I was never raised around and never met.
 
One day Mom, had a baby, it wuZ U, mom worked all the time, nights, weekends, all D time.  Grandfather diagnosed with CANCER and was dying,   When U were born, you were a surprise and had various medical problems. 
                   While watching Rosie bake bread–Rosie, the woman supposed to be my mother– she told me she’d gotten pregnant the year before I was born but the baby died in her womb.  I took residence within her, within that damaged space and apparently was born carrying that child’s debris.  My ‘mother’, Foster Mother I guess, told me I was born needing a hernia operation. 
 
Ms. Cagney taught school where Mom learned 2 B a beautician, no children and had a lot more going than the situation all of us.  Even though, U had medical problems, Grandfather dying, Mom and Dad working hard to support us, when U suddently came we all wanted to do what ever necessary to accomodate and keep U.  Mom decided that you would have a better life with the Cagney’s.  Basically U don’t know it but U did.  Mom felt guilty, Granny and all of us were hurt that U had 2 live with the Cagney’s.  However, Mom always kept N touch and visited U often.  Even though I didn’t like her decision, I would accompany her on the visits.
                    Why I don’t remember this is a mystery.  My first meeting with Rosie was when I was 19.  She seemed vaguely familiar to me, but so did many of the old women who came thru the house to get their hair done in our kitchen.  I will admit to remembering one time she visited with Avis, I think, whom ten years later turned out to be my sister.  I just remember playing in the backyard with this girl and somehow getting her on the hood of my father’s truck in the backyard and dry humping her, looking up to see these two women come down the stairs.  They asked what I was doing.  I said: Playing family.
 
I could go on forever, about how hard life wuz for your other siblings and how life wuz growing up extremely poor, living in a four room TIN roof house in Louisiana.
                    Please do.  I love the blues.
 
I’m saying all this, becuz U need 2 know, that life is short, what ever trip U R on, U need 2 let it go.  U have family, MOM, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts that love U and we would love 2 b a part of your life.  Believe me whatever U R going through, someone has already gone through.
                    I do want to let it go.  You, your mom, your sisters and brothers.  Your children.  Your neices and nephews.  I want to let go that any of this happened.  I want to let go the confusion I had about who’s family I belonged to.  I want to let go the sense of loneliness I feel when I’m around you.  I want to let go everything associated with you.  Were it possible I could remove you from my blood I’d do so happily.
 
Yes, James unfortunately U do have family.  Even though going through the changes that life puts us through takes us through.  We don’t reach out or communicate as often as we should.
                “Unfortunately I do have a family.”  Unfortunately.  That lack of communication you mention has cost you our relationship.
 
With work, struggling to keep riding, food on the table, money N yo pocket, and most importantly a roof over yo head with d lights on.
                One of the things I felt was that I’d joined the family much too late.  Now folks have responsibilities and lives.  They don’t need me.  And I’ve been shown how true that is.  I feel how true that is.  My button says: Ask Me How It Feels To Be Unneeded.
 
I don’t see Mom or the group N Sacramento as often as I should, mostly because I’d rather take a beating than take D drive.
                I’d rather take a beating, too– than seeing you or anyone in Sac..  But neither is really worth it. 
 
Yo do have issues but we all do and none of us R happy with D way we grew up.  However, you must REMEMBER one of GRANNY’s Say-N’s  “U can’t live N this world alone.”
                 Granny must’ve said that to yawl.  Not me.  All I’ve had was The Alone.
 
Right now you’re on the PITTY POT.  But u need 2 (LIGIT)  LET IT GO. 
                  I’m letting it and you and all of it go right now.  LIGIT?  ASAP!  LOL!
 
Even though we don’t call.  Plez know we R always there 4 U. 
                 That… soothes me?
 
Never get soooo sick and not let anyone know. 
                And who will prepare my funeral?  Will anyone even fry chicken?
 
Especially if U start seeing Auntie Alma, CALL SOMEBODY.
                Aunt Alma was my favorite and she’s now dead.  I remember three visits with her.  The first was at her house in East Oakland.  When I first met her, I wasn’t sure if it was okay to kiss her.  Was I supposed to?  Is that what folks here did?  I sat at the fireplace, the first one I’d ever interacted with, and while the fire was dying I tossed the smallest twigs on it I saw and she giggled.  Her son, my cousin? whom I thought looked remarkably like me, sat at the dining room table drinking beer from a pitcher.  That was the first time I remember ever thinking I looked like somebody. 
                The second was after she’d moved to Sacramento, blocks away from where Rosie lived.  I was asked to drive her to a few Doctor’s appointments and to the store.  Something I actually enjoyed.  It was good practice for me, driving.  I remember doing as much for my foster mother before she died– though I wished I had a car during my foster mom’s illness.  In Sac I was using Aunt Alma’s car.
                The last time was when she’d been moved into a convelescent home in East Oakland.  I lived in San Francisco at the time and it was a huge commute for me to get there, but I went to see her a few times.  I don’t know if she even knew I was there.  I remember she’d talk in her hazy sick-sleep.  She’d call names of relatives I didn’t know.  Once I panicked and called Rosie to get advice on reaching one of the people she’d called.  But Rosie seemed unconcerned.  I remember wiping Aunt Alma’s face with a rag.  She sweated.  I’d usually stay for an hour, until someone else would show up.  One of her other sisters.  Then, I’d go home.  I thought about those who would never come visit her, those who were afraid of hospitals.  You included, Carol.  I’ve been blessed to’ve never lain in a hospital bed, but because of all the illness I’ve been around from my foster family… Aunt Mary, Cousin Johnny, Aunt Effie, Uncle Abe, Cousin Isaac, Cousin Jimmy, My Grandmother, My Grandfather, My Father, My Mother… I know what it feels like.  To be truly alone with memories and spirits.  You open an eye as if in a dream– look at the foot of the bed and see someone you haven’t seen in years standing there, waiting for you.  I am standing next to you, and I look at the empty space into which you stare deeply and I ask the dust floating there in silence, “What am I supposed to do?” 

The Thousand Yard Stare Of Love

Posted: September 22, 2015 in Uncategorized
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noahbicknell.com

noahbicknell.com

a tall skinny older white dude stands with a short Mexican woman at the corner waiting for the light. he is talking at her aggressively and close. he loudly grabs her arm. her face is a patient megaphone. you’d think this was an argument. a fight. perhaps. but what if i told you the man appeared incredulous. watching her from two-arms-length distance as if waiting for her to come into a kind of focus, which she resisted. he spoke loudly down into her face, him holding her arm as if keeping her upright. he needed something, wanted something. I couldn’t clearly hear them and thought: money. They moved as to cross the street, but she walked away first only to stand in the middle of the intersection, while he remained at the corner, watching her. his face soft, eternally amused but somehow not angry. He looked like a hippie, a white trash sam elliott, with all the handsome charm scrubbed off him leaving long tresses of unremarkable white and gray hair. But sam elliot wouldn’t be buried in a faded red t-shirt and stone washed jeans from 1988 while standing on the corner of fruitvale and macarthur. this man looks like he called in sick for work 10 or 15 years ago and has been cool with that, baby. he follows her and is still loud. he’s a good foot or two taller and stands in front of her, almost on her toes, his hands excavating the innards of her purse. She’s not struggling, just watching and walking backwards. she turns away from him and walks off. he stands and tracks her. This happens again twice, until finally he catches up with her and digs into her purse and retrieves a phone. the woman then turns and sits next to me at the bus stop. she is a short, thick Mexican woman in black and white blouse and black pants. she tosses herself into the bus seat next to me and crosses her legs. the man stands about 20 feet away. he examines his phone, lifting it over his head as if to stare through it towards the sun. You broke it, he said examining the screen as if it were money and he searched for the watermark. You broke the hell out of it. The woman gets up and tells the man to go on and get out of here, then sits back down. Again and again, she keeps getting up and sitting back down, getting up telling him to go away then sitting back down until she finally gets up and says in halting but good enough english: get out of here… you honkey. go back to you wife. maybe she’ll give you what you want. I don’t think so. you old honkey. you Italian sausage.” satisfied she sits back down with the man still standing in the middle of the sidewalk caressing his phone, not quite amused enough to do anything with his face but remain relaxed and stare. there’s no part of this story where he walks away. Is there really a wife, anywhere, waiting for him, thinking of him, hoping he either comes back or remains here, on this street corner, forever? And what does she look like? He approaches the Mexican woman. She digs in her purse like a badger. I gotta to the store. She says. I need a diet coke. And the two walk off together like that towards the store. Getting on the bus, I wonder why no one loves me like that? Enough to cuss me out on the street then watch me to come back to them like a dog waiting to be fed.