Afloat

you died at the cusp of midnight
but no one knows for sure
the exact minute of departure
you carried your own sword

the sweat from life still dripping
down skin that kept you here
a shell around the broken
bones that never really healed

a voice that sang for the world
echoing truths in ancient air
singing intricate melodies
to words that carried fear

they carried love and anger
pain filled notes dance in black
dotted paper trails
lyrics of loss traced your tracks

giving your all to all, we followed
till your breath’s untimely end
yet we still follow to this day
since we haven’t found your end

woven like exotic tapestry
you weaved lives in decades’ time
as from restless times come beauty
painted true colors by your design

you died at the cusp of midnight
alone — so one would think,
yet souls of millions buoyed by you,
and your music won’t let us sink

afloat we travel onward
lightened by your light
never to be dimmed, nor
succumbed to endless night

~ Em C.

5.16.18

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Mailman

Friday is the one year anniversary of Chris Cornell’s death. I have spent much of this year going through the grief of that loss, especially since I grew up here in Seattle during the grunge era — it is impossible to escape his essence here…he permeates every sea and mountainscape, every gray rainy day, sunny day, every bend in the road, he is the king of this city — his poetic lyrics and music are the soundtrack to my youth.

I have yet to decide how I’m going to mark the day. But, I will be sharing some of his amazing words and music in this next week. I encourage you to really read his lyrics, and listen to his bluesy soulful voice, all 4 octaves.  He simply has the best voice of his generation, and arguably all time. Rest in peace, Chris: “No one sings like you anymore.”

*

Hello don’t you know me
I’m the dirt beneath your feet
The most important fool you forgot to see
I’ve seen how you give it
Now I want you to receive
I’m sure that you would do the same for me

‘Cause I know I’m headed for the bottom
I know I’m headed for the bottom

I know I’m headed for the bottom
But I’m riding you all the way
Yeah, I’m riding you all the way
I’m riding, yeah

For all of your kisses turned to spit in my face
For all that reminds me which is my place
For all of the times when you made me disappear
This time I’m sure you will know that I’m here

‘Cause I know I’m headed for the bottom
I know I’m headed for the bottom
I know I’m headed for the bottom
But I’m riding you all the way
Yeah I’m riding you all the way
I’m riding you all the way
I’m riding you all the way
Riding, riding all the way

My place was beneath you but now I am above
And now I send you a message of love
A simple reminder of what you won’t see
A future so holy without me

I know I’m headed for the bottom
I know I’m headed for the bottom
I know I’m headed for the

But I’m riding you all the way
Yeah I’m riding you all the way
I’m riding you all the way

Oh I’m riding you, yes I’m riding you
Oh I’m riding you, yes I’m riding you
Oh I’m riding you all the way

~ Chris Cornell, “Mailman” on the album Superunknown by Soundgarden, 1994

 

Time Kept Time

time kept time, and kept us dancing
to jazz band rhythm section;
warm lights, sweat and searching hands
dip me over your lowered arm,

swooning, I fall
into swing

piano tickles my spine
in all my right places,

just like your eyes,
they glide across my pages
playing notes I’d long forgotten,

you tune me
until I sing

as liquid jazz voice melts my ice
in jaded blood frozen with loss;

remind me once more:
I’m the woman
you wanted
once upon a time…

want me again, harder
spin me again, faster

remind me to forget
the world, to become
our music

~ Em C.

4.3.18

 

 

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call

Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.

~ Bob Dylan

***

Just felt like playing this song on my harmonium today.  It has never lost its relevance as a rally cry.

This is dedicated to the badass Parkland kids who are taking care of business like the “adults” the politicians are supposed to be.

There are big things going on outside of WordPress that warrant energy and attention. And of course, as poets, we also have some civic role here to write and speak for the times. Sharing here with people who value that role is great.  I’ve been brewing on some resistance poems for a while.

However, there can be energy sucking distractions in the form of trolls and bullies in any social media arena, even WordPress. They thrive on creating drama and chaos, dragging other people into mayhem of their own delusion, imagination and creation.  Tune them out, focus on what really matters, devote love and energy to those who fill your spirit, live in the real world more than the digital, pay attention to what’s going on in the world, resist and participate, and never forget to sing once in a while.

These kids have been attacked, harassed, trolled, and bullied, even as they recover from one of the most traumatizing experiences a human can survive.  The cold, callous, sad people who have nothing better to do with their lives only find joy in other people’s misery, because they themselves are miserable.

These young adults, soon-to-be voters are examples of determination, resilience, fight, integrity, and hope.

Ignore the haters. Life is too short for that bullshit.

#marchforourlives

#neveragain
#enoughisenough
#endcyberbullying
#love
#onward

Spun

you spun
with a fire that blinded the sun
words flew like daggers glinting with hints of love
landing in soft tissue, piercing shrill notes
twisting three-hundred-sixty
degrees

you weaved
like a master of musical tapestry
take that minor and slip into a major key
dancing on ladders of scales, out of our reach
we gape-mouthed,
breathe

you teased
with low baritone growl seducing slow
take it up high with a silky string of flow
soul-shuddering soulful croon
there was no where to go, but
other worlds

far beyond,
we flew with you, never looking down
lighting our own lamp, into black expanse,
face-to-face in the dark we embraced
spoken in songs we counted on you
to sing

~ Emily C.

5.26.17

Help Save Seattle’s Pearl Jam and Soundgarden Music History!

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During this week of mourning for Chris, more sad news has developed. Yesterday the news reported that the building that houses the basement where Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains all practiced as young bands in the ’90s is going to be put up for sale on the market.

It is under the Black Dog Forge ironworks company.  For decades fans have flocked from all over the world to visit the space.  It is still being used as a practice space for bands to this day. In a city that is on development steroids, it will no doubt be purchased and destroyed unless the Forge can come up with enough money to buy the building itself.

There is a Go Fund Me page where donations are being collected. Any amount is appreciated and even if they can’t reach the necessary target, the money will still go to a good cause in helping Black Dog Forge relocate.

I am going to try and find a way to share this link on some Pearl Jam fan pages in hopes that it will spread like wildfire.  I hope Eddie is aware, too, but not sure how to bring it to his attention.

If you feel you can donate anything, please do. And even just sharing the link would be a help because others may want to contribute.  You can share the Go Fund Me link, the news articles, and you can reblog this post here on WP to reach even more.

Thank you for your support with this, and for your understanding as I work through my time of sadness. I hope to be back to normal programming in the near future. Love, Em.

Save Seattle Music History!! ~ Go Fund Me fundraiser page

Help Save Grunge Landmark Black Dog Forge ~ a longstanding practice space for icons like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam  ~ The Stranger, Seattle

Black Dog Forge Building to be Sold ~ MyNorthwest.com

Long Live Rock ‘N Roll Campaign to Save Iconic Seattle Music Space ~ KIRO TV

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No Dream


Late last night, as I struggled to decide if I could write a poem…an anything, I decided to fold down the sun umbrella on the back porch. It had been an 80 degree day and the night sky was clear. Somehow, we went from having the worst winter in Seattle on the history books (4 feet of rain. Yes, you read that right.), to seemingly skipping Spring altogether, and going straight into Summer.

As the umbrella came down, the sky was revealed, and along with it, an array of constellations looming overhead straight out of a movie. I brought my laptop out, sat on my Mexican falsa blanket, and soon I was joined by my cat who curled up on my lap. She has been needing extra TLC since her surgery last week to remove a mast cell tumor the size of a silver dollar. She has to wear a cone for two weeks as she has an impressive set of stitches…18 to be exact. She’s beat my record of 13 staples. She’s only managed to pull out one stitch…so far.

As she fell asleep into kitty dreamland, I couldn’t move my arm. Well, I could, I just didn’t have the heart. So, I stopped trying to force myself to write and just sat there with her and stargazed. In the distant background, a chirping sound that at first sounded like crickets. “But…we don’t have crickets in this part of Washington. Do we? Could a five minute move north have made that much of a difference?” I thought to myself. The longer I sat, the more clear it became that they were frogs chirping their spring mating call at 11pm at night.  I guess that’s a popular time for them, too.

Above me, Ursa Major, the bear constellation from which the Big Dipper comes. Behind me, Cassiopeia. To my left: Jupiter as bright as a small sun, on an upward trajectory passing through a neighbors pine tree, shining still, like a spotlight.  As I watched a plane come from over the Puget Sound and pass by, I spotted a satellite. You can always tell by their predictable and steady line and velocity. I wondered what data might it be transmitting and receiving. Could it see me?

In my eyes, a huge shooting star fell from the sky.  In my ear, I was listening to Chris Cornell’s album “Songbook” from 2011, a compilation put together of live acoustic versions of his music spanning his career. I only just bought it yesterday. I kick myself for not catching up with more of his recent work in these last several years. This particular album is a work of art. What people may not know is that not only did he have “that voice,” but he could play one mean guitar. The two of them alone together is pure magic.

Do yourself a favor and give a listen to this album sometime. I promise you, you will be transported in its transcendency. If you only remember “Black Hole Sun,” whether by generational gap, distance, location, musical taste, then expectedly, you can not fully know the level, the depth of this man’s musical brilliance and talent and poetic beauty.  Hell, I’m still discovering him in new ways, at age 40, having grown up with him in Seattle.

Right now…I live five minutes north of Chris’s elementary school, and five minutes south of his high school.  This is within my very personal sphere of existence. I can feel him here. I routinely pass areas they were known to be inspired by, to write about, to sing and to film videos:

In Magnolia, Discovery Park is the site of the Temple of the Dog video “Hunger Strike.” At Magnuson Park, the sculpture they named themselves after, “A Sound Garden,” features tall pipes that turn in the wind and make sound. I was just there last summer.  At Volunteer Park, the sculpture “Black Sun” inspired their “Black Hole Sun.” The list goes on.

When I was in high school, I recorded my high school jazz band album at Bad Animals Studio in Belltown two months before Soundgarden recorded their Grammy-winning album Superunknown in the same studio. Crazy, right?

Seattle is one large neighborhood, as one speaker — at the packed and incredibly moving impromptu KEXP memorial — noted in his speech. At least…it used to feel that way back in those days.  With the overtake of tech workers eating up the city, we struggle to recognize the soul of Seattle now.  That is why being a local here is something uncommonly special.  It is why it was hard to be at the fountain with my flowers and only see a dozen or so others who trickled by over the course of the day show up with theirs.  With Kurt’s death, we had hundreds. Those who were not here during Chris’s time cannot have the emotional connection we do. It’s not a sleight, it’s just the truth.

This is why this is personal to me, to this city, to the people who have lived here with his music in their blood, his lyrics in their bones, who shared the view of a gray sky and ocean waves with him, who watched him explode into the spotlight.  He should be known, we want(ed) to share him, his voice is both alternately angelic and dark, whatever he needed to be, whatever we needed — he was.

On the day the news broke of his death, I went to my favorite record store and bought the vinyl for Superunknown and Temple of the Dog, two albums that have been on my must-buy list since recently coming back to owning a turntable.  Somewhere, in a packed box, I have my tapes and CDs of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Mudhoney;  all of which had been in heavy rotation in my bedroom of my childhood home.

While the world and time I grew up in had its struggles, trauma, pain, fear…I could count on the big 4 (or 5, if you want to included Alice in Chains) Seattle grunge pioneers, for respite in their lyrics, relief in their screams, tears in their ballads, to do what I couldn’t always do on my own: express my emotions to the people in my life.  When others were blind, would not hear, could not feel how I felt…Chris, Kurt, Layne, Eddie…could.

Chris’s impact on music cannot be overestimated. If it weren’t for him, Eddie would not have gotten his start here in Seattle. He nurtured him after Eddie moved here from San Diego, and brought him on to the Temple of the Dog album, his first time recording. And Eddie is not the only one. Chris had a way of inspiring musicians that he knew and those he didn’t. Just as his music has inspired millions of fans on a global scale.

Recently, I read an article with a video link to someone commenting on his passing.  In his segment, he mentioned that when artists are at the height of creating, it is usually after a period of time that had emotional significance, not during; that it is in the moments of clarity and reflection where the art is made.

This struck me. I look at my own writing. And while there are moments of venting in the heat of the moment, a majority of the writing I do to process things is after the fact (sometimes years), when there has been silence, down time, deep reflection.

Chris wrote about many dark things. He also wrote about light, fight, and survival. Even the darkness he wrote about had elements of light.  People will naturally look for signs in his songs, and of course connections will be made. He struggled and fought depression and addiction. He had been sober for many years. He most likely should not have been allowed to be on something with nasty side effects like Ativan (Dr. Drew also said as much). I am inclined to believe his wife’s statement that he told her he may have taken “an extra Ativan or two,” and was “just tired,” as he slurred to her in his last call.

Ativan can cause severe side effects such as hallucinations and suicide ideation/attempts.  I had to take it temporarily in high school during the years my brother’s bipolar episodes were causing emotional trauma. On a low and normal dose, I felt like I couldn’t form words. I hated it. It numbed me out.  I can’t imagine what adding two or three times the prescribed dose would do to someone, especially a recovered addict.  (Never stop Ativan cold turkey without seeing your doctor for supervision. It must be tapered off gradually with doctor’s permission.) I have no doubt he was not of lucid mind and would never have consciously left his three beautiful children and his wife, whom he loved dearly.

In the week prior to Chris’s death, my own writing was quiet. I have been writing virtually daily for over a year here with barely more than a day of quiet here or there. But, this last week, the brain stalled. Perhaps I sensed something subconsciously.

And then something that cannot be explained, or perhaps it can:  on Wednesday night, I had a lengthy, vivid, visceral dream of sobbing uncontrollably for someone who had died. I did not know who this someone was, but while in the dream, I clearly knew. I was reading their words and bawling incessantly.

I woke up disturbed, exhausted in body, in lungs; the kind of dream where you can feel you’ve been acting it out in your sleep.  The first thing I did was look at my phone where the notification had popped up overnight of his death.  Taken aback, shocked, in disbelief.

I have cried almost every day since. No dream. But life.

And I am merely one example of the kind of reach he had into hearts. Multiply stories like this a million fold, and this is why this man’s departure is so achingly felt.

But, nothing compares to his family’s pain. And if this is what we feel, one cannot presume to know the depths of grief they feel.

His beautiful daughter Toni has been gifted with a voice as well. You can see the love in both of their eyes in this heart melting duet: