Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Freeze




The Freeze
"..she's stoned said the Swede
and the Mooncalf agreed.
 I'm like a viper in shock
With my eyes in the clock...
......and as my mind unweaves
I feel the freeze down in my knees.."
~Robertson/Helm/Manual


Where do the
wounded go when
triage is  through the madhouse?
To huddle in smokefrozen anesthesia
corners dark with a banked combustion
that smolders hotter unseen
where witch doctors dance
in feathers around  bodies
full of plague, skeletal
grotesqueries of fever shadow.

Dragon-lit campfires 
built of bone can only
be extinguished by buckets of blood, 
by the cold complete
chemical foam of annihilation.
Take that clubbing drumbeat
anodyne, opiate organ key visionquest
plectrum plucked purple haze
and mainline it; vicarious junkies
of the undying beat.

We’d all be dead if it wasn’t for the music,
for the broken who gave it to us
dead vessels walking, bright stars of loss
poets, addicts, drunks, wild
flaming madmen, incandescent blue
desolation sibyls desperate to see
something  alive behind the
corpse's eye, looking for diamonds
finding carbon's blackened
ash, poisonous and filthy

drinking the bitter cup so we didn’t have to,
my abandoned generation of cripples
settlers and compromisers
slaves and drones, cowards and loons
scarred, abused, never healed except
when made into angels 
by that insubstantial
medicine that fades
from the air
but not the heart.


May 2012
Process Notes: My title as well as the line above referencing "the bitter cup" are both drawn directly from the lyrics of Chest Fever. The surreal organ on both this and the cut below is played by Garth Hudson.



Levon Helm, drummer for The Band and  the vocalist on both these heavily drug focused songs and many others of far less depressing tone, passed away last month at the age of 71, which says something to me about the persistence of hope over despair, that one can walk away from choosing death, and that art is a better drug than any chemical for treating inner wounds..


posted for    real toads
Marian's Challenge: Dirt Farmer;Levon Helm

and

where Stu McPherson will be hosting a prompt on music starting at 3:00 pm EST



38 comments:

  1. Much agreed, and think levon certainly would. I was lucky enough to go to midnight ramble which was just wonderful. He was full of joy playing his music and making a forum for others. Wonderful poem-- and brings up some of lunacy of turning art into a commodity. You think of someone relatively tortured like Munch and 120 million now. Crazy. But back to poem-the intensity of your language is just wonderful (as always). You have a great gift of finding lucidity in madness. On iPhone only today so sorry for incoherence. K

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    1. Thanks, K. Envy you the midnight ramble. Still putting in my last minute punctuation, and am impressed that even texting yours is totally spot-on. ;-)

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    2. Ha! With computer now so no more excuses not to come up with a poem. (But I'm sure I can think of something!) k.

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  2. A fantastic write, Hedge. So many great lines. Love your notes at the end too - "the persistence of hope over despair". Your closing lines sum it up perfectly.

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  3. This is a manic write! I love the pace on these lines:
    Take that clubbing drumbeat
    anodyne, opiate organ key vision quest
    plectrum pluck of purple haze
    and mainline it; vicarious junkies all
    of the undying beat.

    And the central idea of the piece: We'd all be dead without the music just says so much to me about the human spirit. Thank you for this poem today.

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  4. yesss... anodyne, opiate. this is cathartic. love it.

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  5. We’d all be dead if it wasn’t for the music,
    for the broken who gave it to us
    dead vessels walking, bright stars of loss
    poets, addicts, drunks, wild
    flaming madmen, incandescent blue
    desolation sibyls desperate to see
    something alive behind the
    corpse's eye

    that right there made the poem for me...love all the grit and even the relation to the generation that comes after but that right there is and anthem to musicians hearts...and poets too...just trying to make sense of life and all that we go through...liked this much hedge...

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  6. I'm in awe.
    That is an incredible write.

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  7. I can honestly say, if not for the music, my pen would be very dull indeed. It's gotten me into more trouble than I can mention publicly, but I consider it fair trade for saving my soul. ;) LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, the write, AND the soundtrack.

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  8. wow...love this hedge...from first to last line but esp. touched by that stanza...We’d all be dead if it wasn’t for the music,
    for the broken who gave it to us...cause it's just so true...music saved my life more than once...all the text and tunes that found a way to my heart esp. during my teenage years when nothing else would find a way any more...and then.. the broken, who gave it to us..many of the big ones were broken and shattered people in a way but in their brokenness poured healing...yes...LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it..

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  9. Hedge. This is great. Very timely tribute. Levon Helm used to host these outrageous parties at his home, just a few hours from where I live. I never personally went, but know plenty of people who had, and this was the wonder about this man, his doors were open to anyone, from celebrity to the commoner, just show up, hang out, and listen to jam sessions that last until nobody feels like playing any more. People would just sit around campfires, up in the rafters of his barn, on the grass, or free to roam around as the music took them. For me, reading through, you seemed to harness this spirit, whether intentional or not, and that is awesome. Thanks

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  10. This is stunning...it conjures up all of the drug fuelled, smoke hazed music of the 70's....whilst it was a decade of free thinking and 'free love' and 'free drugs'- actually, the dark side of the substance abuse never really materialised. Love the sentiment here that art is better than ANY drug. We don't often realise that souls who bought us all of those great tunes often struggled with some pretty dark demons sometimes...this was a great great poem

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  11. I don't know that I'd be dead without the music, but I know I would be a lot less alive. That 'undying beat' keeps us moving forward. I enjoyed your write!

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  12. A beautifully written piece...we live by the sacrifice of many. Music, I couldn't live without it. So many have paid a price to play it.

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  13. all this is a great metaphor for the walking dead and the walking wounded!!

    tenaciously as conundrum

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  14. you have such a great way of pulling people in those first few lines, once again awesome

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  15. You had me right from the start - music is such a powerful transformative force

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  16. Your so right, music is what run through our veins and it empathizes with us as better than any human can sometimes. well done.
    http://leahjlynn.wordpress.com/

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  17. Awesome opening! Cool images throughout the poem, witch doctors, etc.

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  18. I agree that we'd all be dead without the music, and yet for those who died, the music lives on. I really enjoyed this, Joy.

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  19. You came up with some really creative descriptions throughout this piece. These are my favorites:

    "To huddle in smokefrozen anesthesia"

    "skeletal
    grotesqueries of fever shadow"

    "plectrum plucked purple haze"

    "We’d all be dead if it wasn’t for the music" ... Amen.

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  20. I quench thirst with music so you can say I might die without it. Great write.

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  21. Where do the
    wounded go when
    triage is through the madhouse?

    was a hell of an opening to follow, but you didn't fall away anywhere, not in the slightest, you maintained that amazing standard throughout. Wow!

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  22. I've quoted Paracelsus before, but his adage that fire cures fire is under the mojo here at work, that the music of falling apart is somehow also the physic, as if to put wings on the demon is to lift the malaise, like Dedalus, up above the indecipherable maze of the self-destructive labyrinth long enough to perceive that we might, just might, be able to whistle our way through. It is amazing that such uplifting stuff comes out of the boneyard. All of this is searingly fine, but the second stanza nails the absolute crux of it. Putting out the fire with gasoline is a bit like bucket of blood used as a mint for dragon's breath, tincturing the tide just enough so that it doesn't drown. Maybe the point was ever to sing the myth, not live it. Great poem, H. - Brendan

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    1. I think the smell of the healing in it is what draws the damaged so strongly--also that if you have it in you to create, then you have to do it, and most who have that seed are hurting in some way. Music is a form of whistling, of losing a fear in a cloak of defense because the fear has been articulated for you and shared, but if it never goes deeper--if you don;t learn the lessons, then like Icarus, down you come when things get hot. Thanks for reading, B. I know you get this one.

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  23. I thought I had commented on this earlier this morning, but I see that I didn't. I have often pondered why it is that so many musicians and artists of various stripes fall prey to the needle and the bottle and so many other things if that ilk; I think it is because they are demanded upon to create from their hearts and souls, but then to trot that out in front of a screaming mob and sly moguls night after week after month after year. Who wouldn't need something?

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  24. I've had The Weight playing in my head since I heard about his death.

    The language in this is breathtaking in it's beauty and intensity.

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  25. I really enjoyed this. The Band was one of the first groups I heard coming out of the late 60s. Your understanding of the role that outsiders played in the subculture is very rich, true and filled with understanding. At thatbtime and later, there was a notion that living at the edges of social conformity revealed truths that we otherwise would not see. There was also the notion that a psychologicalmillness, or madness, might bring truths as well as a greater awareness and higher level of healing for all the despair that many felt. Your poem captures these ideas beautifully and with music and images that bring the reality of them to life. Great poem.

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    1. Thanks Charles--yes indeed, you say it well. And I actually do think that living at the edges, or beyond, of social conformity is a necessary corollary of the creative, and part of the artist's and musician's nature--also in times of change, we need it most, and are always shaped by it. Thanks for your insights and kind words, my friend.

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  26. I'm too old to enter into the experience behind this poem, but I can still applaud the craftsmanship with which it is constructed.

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  27. Funny how set in our tastes we can get. I don't really care for the band, though I do like some that sound very similar. Can't explain it. I can also say that I like them for no other reason than the inspired your poem. I love that last stanza in particular, and I keep rereading those first two lines in it. They echo in my head.

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  28. I'll echo what Christine said. That opening question made me think you were writing about my life. And it's an awesome opening. Let me quickly add that in NO way am I comparing myself to the great artists you go on to pay tribute to, and Levon Helm was one of the brightest. I love this poem, and it's a worthy tribute. We'd all be dead without the music - oh my god yes.

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  29. We’d all be dead if it wasn’t for the music,
    for the broken who gave it to us

    You have a new fan. I love it

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  30. "Dragon-lit campfires
    built of bone can only
    be extinguished by buckets of blood, "
    Oh my what a vision that is! I like the idea of music as medicine.

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  31. Music surely has saved many, many of us. It connects people in a way few other things can. You express that so well. Your third stanza reminds me a bit of "Howl" in its manic intensity.

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  32. Wow...love the music as medicine but the dragon-lit campfires is really massively cool!

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  33. You and I come at life from different directions, different histories, and though I was never able to connect with the hard music and life, your poem connects emotionally. I would be dead without writing. "dead vessels walking" is one of many great lines, and I hear in it my own churchy past, giving up self for God and others. Strange isn't it, how I can co-opt it?

    Wonderful work.

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  34. Yes, I agree with you that music is medicine. This is beautifully done!

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg