mess

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Oh, how painfully and recognizably true.

Mess
Rudy Francisco

On the day you couldn’t hold yourself together anymore,
you called for me, voice crackling like two sets of knuckles
before an altercation.

I found you, looking like a damaged wine glass.
I hugged your shatter, I cut all of my fingers
trying to jigsaw puzzle you back together.

When it was over,
you looked at the stains on the carpet
and blamed me for making a mess.

Luck of the lockdown – Random gum 2020

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Luck of the lockdown – Random gum 2020

Since my last playlist the world has turned upside-down. Travel has stopped; people have been quarantined. Probably no better time for some music. The latest playlist is here.

Follow along on Spotify if inclined…

I started compiling this early in 2020 and had originally intended it for March, so it had a lot of Irish and Scottish artists (still does), but the whole “luck of the Irish” thing won’t work now. Not just because it’s June but also because frivolity – though we need it – feels wildly out of place at the moment. As I write this the world is feeling prematurely hopeful about the coronavirus while the US’s decline into chaos accelerates. (The ‘future view’ of America, as foretold in the tv comedy Brockmire looks more and more likely every day.)

1. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
The times we live in.
2. Alien Sex Fiend – “Now I’m Feeling Zombiefied” …Show you faces and places that’ll make you terrified to be alive!…
How do we live without zombified numbness and fear?
3. Electronic – “Make It Happen” …I am a fraction/A part of a broken man…
4. Sharon Van Etten – “I Told You Everything” …We held hands as we parted…
Opening up to the dark and the light.
5. Cate le Bon – “Sisters”
6. The Prodigy – “Charly (Original Mix)”

charley

A complete UK experience must be accompanied by Charley the cat and his dead-eyed little boy owner cautioning you against all kinds of dangers.


7. Roy Orbison – “In Dreams” …A candy-colored clown they call the sandman/Tiptoes to my room every night…
Is anyone else creeped out by these lyrics? This sandman claims “everything is all right” – but is it? Is it?
8. Mazzy Star – “Roseblood” …Capture a smile and then that’s all/You won’t know her so it’s ok/Funny how things change…
RIP David Roback.
9. Michael Kiwanuka – “You Ain’t The Problem”
10. Primal Scream – “Rocks”
Must be played loud.
11. John Prine – “Angel of Montgomery” …just give me one thing that I can hold onto/to believe in this living is just a hard way to go…
RIP. What a huge loss; one victim of the COVID-19 virus that has gripped the world in 2020.
12. Weyes Blood– “Andromeda” …If you think you can save me/I dare you to try…
13. The Waterboys – “The Whole of the Moon”
The use of this song in the final bit of often-frustrating The Affair (and Fiona Apple’s cover) made me listen to this anew; I included it originally when this was going to be a St. Patrick’s Day/March mix (was mostly including Irish and Scottish stuff). But here we are in June.
14. Bedouin Soundclash, Coeur de Pirate – “Brutal Hearts”
15. Autobahn 86, Jokey – “National Health Service”
It’s Glasgow and it’s timely, don’t you know? People need and love their NHS.
16. Carl Hauck – “Pure Gold”
17. Kenny Rogers – “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”
RIP Kenny. Not my style but definitely a marker of childhood. I will always remember a classmate telling me that her Japanese father taught himself English with Kenny Rogers tunes; also a fitting tribute via Glaswegian comedy Burnistoun.

18. Fleetwood Mac – “Go Your Own Way”
19. U.N.P.O.C. – “Here On My Own”
During this lockdown, we are all on our own. Especially those of us who live completely alone.
20. The Soup Dragons – “I’m Free”
The order in which the last few songs appear (go your own way, sad all on my own and now freedom) seems intentional but wasn’t. Weird. I doubt Sean Dickson of The Soup Dragons imagined during his Bellshill/Glasgow years or the early years of fame how prescient and prophetic recording this song would be for him. I watched a documentary thing in which he featured – I didn’t recognize him at all. But the guy looks healthy and happy (once he embraced who he really is). This YouTube clip isn’t the docu I saw – but you can see him here along with clips from the “I’m Free” video – a world of difference.


21. Echo & the Bunnymen – “Never Stop”
22. The Wild Reeds – “I Think We’re Alone Now”
For some reason this song is always going to make me think of Terra and miss her.
23. REM – “Nightswimming”
This song’s use in Pamela Adlon’s Better Things was so exquisite that I’ve had to play this often.
24. Jessie Buckley – “Glasgow (No Place Like Home)”
I’d never have guessed that this Buckley was the same girl who delivered a heartbreaking performance in Chernobyl, nor the same girl who turned up in Taboo. But there you go. Irish versatility! This tune from the soundtrack to Glasgow-based indie film Wild Rose was co-written by Mary Steenburgen. Yes, that Mary Steenburgen!
25. Peter, Paul and Mary – “500 Miles”
26. Noire – “Baby Blue”
27. U2 – “Love is Blindness” …Love is drowning/In a deep well/All the secrets/And no one to tell…
Oh, those youthful years of obsession with U2 and Ireland.
28. Brigid Mae Power – “On a City Night” …Before I could reply he said/I like the city lights instead/country trees in the night/their shadows give me a fright…
Brigid Mae Power (Irish, of course) continues to be one of my favorites. I love this song.
29. Moses Sumney – “Doomed” …When I expel/From this mortal shell/Will I die for living numb?…
And we are back to numbness.

Lunchtable TV talk: Dispatches from Elsewhere

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When I tried to describe Dispatches from Elsewhere to someone, I found that it defied categorization. It was part mystery, part drama, part scavenger hunt, part comedy, part human, part magical realism, part moving… and very much about identity and community.

This is one of the few times I am actively curious and wish other people would reach out and tell me how they would describe a show, how they felt about it. What was the journey like in watching Dispatches? I use the word “journey” because watching it felt like taking one — one that starts slowly, lacking in sure steps, because we don’t know quite what we’re getting into, whether or not we like it or whether or not it makes any sense.

What were your thoughts, feelings and impressions?

What stays with you: Identity is not a straight line

Plot points don’t stick with me too often, while well-drawn or evocative characters get under my skin and stay there. In Dispatches, four very different people are pushed together, and despite the plot being unclear, the identity struggles of each of the four become clear quickly.

Our introduction to this world is the meek Peter (Jason Segel, also the creator of the show), whom one could argue never had much of a personality or identity at all, but in the course of the show, begins to discover it. He is the least interesting of the characters but seems to represent a bigger theme: keeping the mystery going, a sense of wonder (both at what the characters are chasing and discovering, but more so, what he experiences as his identity awakens).

Peter meets Simone (Eve Lindley), a trans woman, who has taken the steps in her life to be who she truly is, but despite this courageous journey, the path to finding identity, acceptance and love is much more complex than just being who you are. That is step one, which Simone has mastered, solving the core ‘identity crisis’, but the deeply human challenges of trust and vulnerability appear to be even harder for her to overcome.

This pair meets Janice (Sally Field) and Fredwynn (Andre Benjamin) as the plot thickens, and the foursome embarks on some sort of mystery-driven game/scavenger hunt to find a woman called “Clara”. Janice’s situation reflects how a lifetime of compromises and choices lead you to an eroded version of yourself, and even though you don’t regret those compromises, you don’t realize how much of the original you you lost along the way – nor in fact how much of yourself you’re able to reclaim if you embrace the change and silence the fear.

Fredwynn, Janice’s unlikely game partner, is a mad genius, paranoid, and always on the edge of something either brilliant or insane – possibly both. While all of the characters are genuine, my heart breaks for Fredwynn, who, despite his intelligence and wealth, seems the worst equipped of the group to cope with his own fractured identity and how part of who he is always drives people away. (If you can’t tell, I loved all these characters, but loved Fredwynn the most.)

Until the very end it’s unclear quite what’s going on with the Clara mystery, and this is unimportant and immaterial compared to watching how the characters emerge, take chances and evolve. The Clara mystery, too, is enrobed in a story of someone who lost their identity/self, and to atone, wants to make sure that others find or reconnect with their own true selves. Dispatches shows us in a fanciful way that it’s never too late to discover or rediscover ourselves, and that often the best  – or only – way to do this is through our connections to others – a community. (Which is also a driving theme in the late, great show actually called Community… which, like Dispatches, was wildly experimental, and necessary viewing.)

 

 

letter home

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missing so many.

Letter Home
Fleda Brown
Grass River is a snake on the tongue.
You, love, a thousand miles down
the map, many turns. Meanwhile,
I am plunging ahead here through
forget-me-nots, marsh marigolds,
Joe Pye weed, and underneath,
the bright fur of mosses,
moss over moss, tangled, unspoken,
this great green marsh bleeding
everywhere.

Speckled trout line up
like knives under the falls; strings
of moss weave and pull, one
hard pull, everything part-
ing, everything in slits, peaks
of reflected light, teeth, laughter.
If you were here, it would be
just the same, only two,
taking on whole the foreign language
of the birds. It would cling
to nothing in us, and we would still
be hungry together, teeth, tongues.

Photo by Lyn C on Unsplash

germination

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Germination
Laurie Halse Anderson

idea cracked the seed’s shell
skull’s cell
burrowed through the muck
surrounding my self-measured casket
clawed blindly toward light

slowly
I can’t stand this
bled
into I can’t stay here
trickled
through I should leave
swelled into
I want to leave
rose into a tidal wave
of I’m going

Photo by Chris Henry on Unsplash

the poet holds a gun

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from The Poet Holds a Gun
Megan Fernandes

The bullet is a simple, adolescent heartache.
When guns go off around you, you wince like a single sheet
and nothing in your body has ever been so simultaneous
not even orgasm which is more like the hungry sea
meeting an Aeolian beach with their sweet
caper storms and lemon trees. An orgasm
has more surface area and salt than a gun.

paint

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Paint
Jane Hirshfield

Someone invented this.

If a person
pees on a wall so painted,
the pee splashes back,
wets the pants, soaks the shoes.

Surprise! the wall says.

Someone thought this a good solution.
Someone gave it a color.

Ugly lockdown baking: Aquafaba vegan chocolate mousse – version 1

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Aquafaba is strange and miraculous.

Aquafaba vegan chocolate mousse – version 1

Aquafaba, the equivalent of four egg whites
1 cup sugar
Several tablespoons of sifted unsweetened cocoa

(You could also add vanilla extract and/or vanilla bean powder when you’re adding the cocoa. You can also add a lot more cocoa if you prefer. I used about two tablespoons, so it has a light chocolate touch.

Heat sugar and aquafaba, whisking together, in a glass bowl over a saucepan filled with water, gently simmering.

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When the sugar is completely dissolved, transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Use the whisk attachment to whisk at high speed until it comes together in medium peaks.

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Can you believe that this is chickpea water?!

Sift cocoa in and this point and continue to whisk – this will take while but will become fluffy eventually.

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Put in individual serving bowls and refrigerate for a few hours.

It’s not ‘pretty’, and this won’t be quite like the mousse you might be used to. It is very light but has a chocolatey marshmallow flavor.

This is a very simple version of a kind of vegan “mousse” you could make if you want something chocolate, light, easy, and vegan. I will soon try another version.

losing

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Losing as Its Own Flower
Naomi Shihab Nye

What if we had just said, OK we lose.
How would they have treated us then? I ask my people, they gasp,
and all have different answers.
No, no, we can never give up.
Stay strong, keep speaking truth.
Truth unfolds in the gardens,
massive cabbages, succulent tomatoes,
orange petals billowing,
even when the drought is long.
Hang on tightly to what we have,
though just a scrap. The ancestors would be ashamed
if we gave up. The invaders said our land
was barren and sad.
They said we were anti-Semitic.
But we were Semites too.
What could we do?Giving up is different from losing.

 

In a way, we did lose. Where is everybody?
Scattered around the world like pollen.
Disappeared into the sunset.
Mingling with other cultures
in the great bubbling stew of the world.

See, we are good at that, why couldn’t we
have done better with our invaders?
They came pretending we were
an alien species. Said they had deep ties here,
some of them did, but what about ours?

Why couldn’t we all have ties?
They said God said.
(Always trouble.)

We replied, See the stone stoop of my house
with my rubbed footprints in it
after all these years?
See my shining key?

They said we made everything up.
We were crazy.
Is losing worse than being called crazy?

So we did lose. We lost our rhythm of regular living.

You want the page to be clean.
The day wide open, nobody suffering.
We lost our bearings, their voices
blew hard on us, trying to erase,
turning us inside out in their minds,

changing what we became.
Tried to make the world see us that way too.
We were the undeserving.
See what people do?
We could live up to their lies if
they made us crazy enough.
So we did lose.

Professors, educated students, best maker of maklouba,
math students of Gaza, embroiderers of the West Bank,
lemon vendors, grapefruit-growers,
artist who stayed in her room painting egg cartons
for so many days, where are you?
(She went to Italy.)

I too dream of Italy, France, Greece.
A village climbing a hill
where I’m not always looking back
over my shoulder,
eyes aren’t tipping to the sides
to catch approaching tanks and jeeps,
but this is my job.

Before speech, a baby makes a cat-cry.
Maybe I knew even then.
To document. To pay attention.
We wore striped T-shirts, they wore camouflage.
To be with my family on our ground.

If you live like a real human being –
that is the issue. Not winning and hunting others.
Not dominating.
Not sending your sewage their direction.
Did you know? Did you know they do this?
Not just refusing to lose.