Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I Want To Cry At The Opera

I’m trying to get into opera bit by bit. I like music, so I like it. I want to be like those people that cry at the opera. But I am not there yet. I’ve written about this before but again: I think aside from my some genuine interest in being as cultured as possible (not in some vacuous sense of wanting to impress at some cocktail party, in the real sense), my art is really pop culture. Film of course, and books, of course. And songs. Pop songs, rock songs, song songs. Shit that plays or played on radio. The full range. I don’t cry at the opera yet but I can cry at Michael Jackson's Human Nature for a myriad reasons. It's hard to get through Springsteen's The River. I cry at Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now, at this particular moment in life. Not the original but the one she re-recorded with the full orchestra, on the Both Sides Now album. The breathy one, that lays over all her years. I think when she wrote the song she didn’t know it so well as she does when she sings it in this version. Joni Mitchell singing this on this album is way older than me, My mother used to listen to her “Coyote” when I was little; it’s one of the main ways that we discovered I could understand English for no apparent reason. We were Cape Verdeans living in Belgium. I was in 2 or 3rd grade. All my English was from my parents’ music. She was trying to sing it, playing her guitar and getting stuck. And I came over and helped by basically singing the song’s first verse, which she was struggling to understand. "No regrets Coyote, We just come from such different sets of circumstance, I'm up all night in the studios, And you're up early on your ranch,You'll be brushing out a brood mare's tail, While the sun is ascending, And I'll just be getting home with my reel to reel..." Certainly is on my top ten childhood memories.

If she is older and I relate, then I too, when I am older will hear the song all over again for the first time. I wish I could sing but I can’t—so I listen. I imagine, about lyrics and poems and pieces of prose that they are a merry-go-round that binds us. And that we all take a turn watching it go by, unengaged. Then suddenly we get kicked and fall into line, into the circle going around. And as we take our place in it, we say: I know this circle’s arc, I recognize this rhythm, I am a part of this. It’s amazing when the kick is say, your first love. Or your first child. It’s not so amazing when the kick is from pain, or from knowing things that hurt, I guess. Still, I suppose feeling alive and in motion and connected should be its own reward. It is better to feel as though you fall into line with a larger expansive woman experience that has been witnessed by others than to feel you’re in a lonely free fall. Art (in this case, my Joni Mitchell song) does that, it is that merry-go-round testimony. I think having almost not made it past 21, and having lived many years completely disconnected from myself, I’ll always recognize that the moments when it clicks that you are alive and your circumstances not unique (like when I watched “Volver” recently) is a kind of ultimate good. Maybe that’s why some people cry at the opera.

Both Sides, Now

By Joni Mitchell

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons evrywhere
Ive looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on evryone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
Ive looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
Its cloud illusions I recall
I really dont know clouds at all

Moons and junes and ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As evry fairy tale comes real
Ive looked at love that way

But now its just another show
You leave em laughing when you go
And if you care, dont let them know
Dont give yourself away

Ive looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
Its loves illusions I recall
I really dont know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say I love you right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
Ive looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say Ive changed
Well somethings lost, but somethings gained
In living evry day

Ive looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
Its lifes illusions I recall
I really dont know life at all
Ive looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
Its lifes illusions I recall
I really dont know life at all

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Prayer

The Prayer

I put my hands, both
Through the air: digging without searching
There are ten things I did today and will do tomorrow
But will never admit having done

I wish there were always persons to bear witness to that
To fashion me robes with which to masquerade my conscience
To incite me to the rituals of purpose
When I’d rather just dig for nothings
Just me and the air and the places the two meet
Punctuating things
Looking for interlocution from this purely tactile
Suspended dance between myself and space
Like someone banging stones to make fire without much conviction

I pull my hands, both
Back out of the air: they are all drenched
In something I cannot see but can taste