- Vol. 02
- Chapter 10
You were so tired. I took the picture and didn’t turn back.
At first I worried. About you not having sunglasses. No hat to shade you from the sun. Water for when you got thirsty.
You said all you needed was your guitar. To find the thing you had lost. That made you you. You couldn’t find that thing while you were surrounded.
I repeated this until I stopped worrying. I was tired too.
You might wonder what I’m doing here, out so far beyond words.
Words stopped with the last signpost miles ago. And, as for me, well look at me—a silhouette: perfect, phallic masculine. I look like the sort can’t end sentences, who’ll drop a word like peyote, whose drawl stretches out so far each word could straddle Texas.
Just look at me. I have been designed to be looked at.
Evasive, I’ll slip from the eye, posed like I don’t care how I look, which is no less a pose, offering some affordance to the verbal. So tell me what I am. I need completion. My feet, for example. Do I have any? Am I wearing—what—cowboy boots, high heels? Are my jeans straight or bootcut. Stockings?
I might be taking a piss.
Slim: my girlfriends find me insubstantial. They overspill their tops, they bulge against their jeans. They’re looking for one who feels things deeply but can’t say. Girls are too much. I am not.
The only thing better would be a soldier.
The only thing better would be a gun.
In the desert nothing is masc or femme. I can’t come back from here, can only dry up, go on, into this land that might have cactuses, or might have nothing. I’m facing this valley like the sea; each grain of sand is faceted. To describe each of them would take an aeon. You see why words are useless here.Read more >
You got out, escape by way of Greyhound, into the bus station past the souvlaki stands, the subway hustlers and street corner pimps.
And as you left the city and stared out at Hell’s Kitchen, you felt a lump in your throat. It was as if you were already looking back on something you’d lost, like being presented a shoebox of photographs someone dug up from your stored belongings, like sitting in a cinema showing a lost and scarred stretch of silent film.
You were gone, out, into the green. All gone to look for America. This was so long ago there were ashtrays in the back of the seats. The air in the back of that bus was blue with cigarette smoke, stank of sweat and cold souvlaki and beer.
And you rode and rode and rode. Out into the west. Out to rest stops and road side diners where no one had ever seen someone like you, where they asked, What you want, honey? And you were just relieved they weren’t downright hostile, there, in the land of blue eye shadow and bouffant hair.
You walked out there with your guitar. Someone asked you, What you play on that? You showed him, showed him the tune you’d been composing, showed him that an electric guitar can play even softer than an acoustic.
to some private place they think their own.
All different and all the same.
It might be thimbles, Queen Mother commemoratives,
tea towels, LMS, trashy novels. You’ve seen their enthusiasm –
hats crusted with badges and patches sewn on.
For some it’s, tree frogs of the Amazon,
footwear of the eighteenth century, guitars, violin.
You’ve seen them carrying instrument cases you can’t even
It’s another kind of travelling. Let them.
And go with love to the quiet place of your own
where the sky is high and clear. Envision
where, in the crowd, you too can be alone.
Go now, spend time. It’s okay.
Whatever turns you on.
You already are.
"Somewhere in the middle of a guitar
arpeggio, strummed by a Spanish peasant."
How noble, how clichéd.
In the centre of a Spanish arpeggio.
I want to be somewhere beautiful,
in the centre of an unsung arpeggio,
in the midst of swan feathers diving
to break the lake and still know of living.
To catch the sun on a diary page,
to burn forever and never fade.
is all I have to feel warm
in your absence
this rudimentary landscape
your cold, shining jaws
and a janitor called moment
drug me to sleepless hours
and endless trek
when moon spills over Periyar,
don't drown your self
This love is not safe
But he knows the key to unlocking her. To have her spew the molten magma from deep within her navel. To unleash a spurting cataract, one the oil companies would bear no interest in. Not through any foolish drumming. That vain anticipation of striking up the sympathetic resonance necessary to crack open the landscape. It’s not beat, it’s not even down to frequency. Nor is it any drone effect. It is rather the place of dead sound. And his trusty Fender bass will find it. No need for electrified amplification. Just strumming the strings in humble propitiatory vibration will soothe and induce her. Plucking and slapping and popping her womb. The lowest note in the world to resonate with the highest temperature at the lowest point in the world. The Omphalos to the realm of volcanic heat below. And when his bass has played midwife to Mother Nature, then the Devil shall emerge from his Inferno to claim his rightful kingdom, serenaded all the way by an orchestra of glorifying bass guitars. Hailed by the humble and unhailed of rock and roll.
The wiser of the animals frown their disapproval but don't wish to involve themselves in the dirtiness of humans. The otters float, eyes raised in quiet exasperation, the whales mutter their annoyance and the accident of size amplifies their voices, gives them strength and importance they perhaps wouldn't have chosen. The octopus long ago sighed and propelled itself away. It had seen enough of this type of thing.
Only the dolphins are confused. They like humans, it is hard-wired into their brains. We sped by perhaps those same ones in our boat and you reached out and touched one's head. I said not to, you jeered at me, told me I was pathetic and a tree-hugger. I watched your mouth open and shut. Lips wide and pink like slugs, spit over teeth. The black hole beyond. Why do we speak? I thought then, as I do now. No good ever comes of speaking.
So now I am silent, I am wise and I share with you the secret I have learnt. Speaking with our mouths only is useless. Completely. Its is surplus to requirements. What we need to communicate is our voice, yes, but that voice that comes from within, the note carefully tailored by the universe, by the dunes, by the sand and sea, by things smarter than us.
Like the taught strings of a guitar,
Drop your life to look like Springsteen,
Born to Run, but not this far.
I figured I looked pretty cool, too,
Silhouetted in desert heat;
The reality: sand in my shoe,
And only sand to eat.
I retuned my faithful Fender,
And booked the next flight home,
I went on an all-night bender,
And then fiddled as I burnt down Rome.
calls out sustenance,
the quench for expression conglomerates
within sandy notes
finds contemplation -
the musician is nomad among the minds of dancers
troubadours taking, making feeling from a fretboard.
She that wanders might not be balanced
but might walk with awe, atuned by way
of philosophical concerts.
Her equipment may not be natural to the environment.
Energy she feels the need of can pass fleetingly;
waiting for the sun, or a lightning bolt.
In the fingertips, she can always find power...
One guitar, no need for electricity.
Resonance is a portable entity - in the dry heat
it takes in its setting, amplifies, and echoes out truth.
For talent, within, she will always be in demand.
I settle for hitting grocery stores.
You move south to write poetry and fall in love with an acid jazz drummer. I never get why your poems don't rhyme, but I still dig you anyway.
Outside music stores, I scour the fading cards pinned in glass cabinets. Bass player wanted. I hang around backstage, and lift a Rickenbacker. Fingers made for forcing unlocked windows are repurposed to caress steel strings.
You come to my show; you’ve seen my picture in the local newspaper for all the wrong reasons. We kiss and, after you leave to make the last bus, I gun for somewhere I won’t be found — all tin shacks and parched earth.
In the cool evening, I watch the path through the foothills and sing your song. Only now, I realise that I have always been the victim.
is the resonance
is the carrying on
and the thing about this picture of me
is the resonance for me and
the resonance for you
and the carrying on
you back there with my amp
and my leads and your drums
and those hands holding the sticks
and my hands here on my bass
on my bass
and the other thing
about me and you is
or was the rhythms
is or was the rhythms
and the thing about out here is
of the sun setting
and the sun rising
and the green
stubborn and resistant
but never quite blooming
never quite blooming
Nearly twelve million people waited for her in the city, just two days’ walk away. She could hide in the anonymity of numbers and occasionally when her bills and her ego demanded she could play some of her songs unknown there and be the focus again for a night. That was the plan as the plane’s brakes screeched and she watched the sand blow across the runway. Perhaps a wheel of her plane tossed this very grain into the air as she arrived to be breathed in as she left. Again these little thoughts: that it was she who threw this grain of sand high and as it descended it marked her time like sand in any hourglass. How obvious it is now, that all things that play out are the result of one’s own hand. There must be no blame but that which you direct towards yourself.
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An open window had let the house fill with moths. I hunted them out with the yard-brush, killing the ones that refused to move, then drove into town for supplies. On the way I passed the old honky-tonk tramp, playing songs on a battered out of tune bass guitar. The tramp wrote its own songs, probably due to an inability to play other people’s. Each song had the same dreary drone. They were all about people who lived round here. I wondered if there were any about me and the animal.
I picked the tramp up with the offer of dinner on my way back from town. People were rarely invited to my house. I liked to be on my own; that’s why it was further into the desert than any other house in these parts. It made me feel like I lived on the edge of the world.
You know what? No. No. You know what? You can just stuff it. No. No I don’t care. No. I’ve had it, had enough. Enough of you and enough of you. And especially enough of you. No. No I won’t sit down. No. I’ve held my tongue long enough now. No you fucking shut up. I’m out. I’m out of here. I’m out from under the fucking thumb of you lot. No. I see it. I see exactly what you’re trying to do. I’m not an idiot. I know exactly what you want and I know you’ve been after it for months. You think I’m blind? You actually think I’m blind enough that I wouldn’t see. You really think you could go on with all this bullshit, drag everyone out here, drag me out here, lock us away from, from everything, all to just sit back and do exactly what you want and I wouldn’t see it? No. This morning was the last fucking straw. I know exactly what you did. I could hear it. A fucking idiot could hear it. You had me in there working all yesterday trying to make sense of that gibberish you keep shouting in my ear, put some shape on that pile of rubbish you think means something, leave me sweating in that fucking box all day then come along and dump the lot of it and come up with this, this, this shite, and you think I wouldn’t spot it? You really do take me for an idiot. Yes, you. The lot of you. You all think I’m just here to make up the numbers. Read more >
I remember this: he neither took off his leather jacket nor put down his bass guitar until a girl gave him a reason. He loved playing the rockstar.
His act, I thought, was only that – an act. The right woman, meaning I, would tame him. But he grew bored, picked up the bass and the jacket and vanished. All I’ve left is the album art and the bump.
I wonder if the baby will look like him. I hope so. That’ll remind me.
desert. You, and five others, are alive.
After a quick examination of
the contents of the plane, you make a pile
of the salvageable, serviceable
items which survive the impact:
heavy-duty rubbish sacks, four bottles
of airline-branded mineral water,
two boxes of chocolate bars, a carton
of complimentary nuts (to be served with
post-take-off drinks), several cushions, one
pair of headphones, a lifejacket, three books
of matches, a rum miniature, blankets,
and a bass guitar (rescued unscathed from
the overhead locker).
And there's always
one – only there to get a day out of
the office – who says, for a laugh, “sod the
rest of you, I'll take that guitar and a
bottle of water.” Then, with that, stands up,
slings the guitar over his right shoulder,
and blows a cheery kiss goodbye.
The silence is heavy and deafening
but if you’re willing to take the scorched steps
or buff your skin smoothing and sorting the grains,
the notes will rise to your ears, stick in your teeth,
cling to the corners of your eyes and hum like
a shell song in the depths of your head.
If the sand did not suck the sound from air –
if it weren’t hungry for the weight of chords,
jostling to the beat, thumping the rhythm up
through the soles of your boots to the soul;
if it did not cling to the waves and peaks of a strummed string
and weave itself into a vibrant carpet of vibration,
where might I go? How could you ever find
me if my songs were left to run loose and unrecorded
into that terrible sky?
No sign of a dipping down above.
The glare of a desert day
follows me friendless,
a silhouette, silent, strolling.
Yet coins jingle in my pockets.
I can never be alone-
my mind waits until music extends
from anxious, nimble fingers
into the chords of my guitar,
now cocked at half mast.
I'll wake the plains
with grand swells of sound,
make particles of sand
surround me, shiver alive,
The road away from disappointment is never-ending, but I march on angrily; the distant neighboring sand dunes outline a perimeter of nothingness; while the open road promises something, but I don’t know what.
I didn’t set out into the desert with a long term plan, but I was frustrated with life. I had heard that the Aboriginals of Australia go on a walkabout into the desolate wild to find peace and spiritual awareness. I’m not from Australia, and I’m not an Aboriginal, so there is probably more to it than I know, but I reasoned that even Jesus had wandered the desert for spiritual answers, at least I think he did. Either way, the trend I detected was the need for space to set your thoughts out.
I’m not sure if anyone has ever had an epiphany in the Nevada Desert. Although, I am walking away from Vegas, so I imagine there are a few who gambled everything and then proceeded to tread down this road and think about when they should have quit.
palette-cleansed dinner conversations.
eyes that will not
well or look or talk
the banter of friends
who once were
but now dance
to a song
that has abandoned
language for words.
a long conversation
with the wall that
eyes that bore
like the dark bores
where decaying melody
echoes across the infinite void
of time’s slow collapse,
the lonely weaver of words
plucks ripe sounds
from out thin air,
breathing The Word
back into creation.
Each strum upon the instrument
he keeps strapped around his shoulder
brings the fruition of high vibration
into harmony with the once parched landscape.
Where once there was drought,
now the chalice is full.
Where once there was chaos,
now the music beats in tune.
Where once there was sorrow,
now feet dance in ecstatic joy.
Where once there was silence,
now laughter and song fill the air.
Where once there was only mirage,
now the muse has been resurrected.
Of course, this would never work as an album cover. Men, at a subliminal level, would be too disturbed by the subversion that is going on here. A woman in black coming out of a white desert to make music that seduces us? You can hear the ponytails of the old rockers flapping away as they quickly reverse away from the newsstand – the inversion of the power relationship inherent in most rock and roll will clearly be too much for them to handle.
Everyone has a story, where they were in a pick-up band at school. Mine started and ended after one gig when I was 16, playing rhythm guitar on ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash at a Christmas concert. Nothing exciting about it, apart from the fact that the girl I’d been trying to chat up for the last three months, who’d been getting ever-more efficient at ignoring my entreaties, was down the front, eyes glowing – and looking at me.
Ah, I thought – that’s why you do it.
The words are electric lights in your head, zapping the darkness into crystal clarity.
He's incredibly rare, a speciman existing entirely to you and only you. Everyone interprets him differently and sometimes he's not even a man; he's been known to exist as a woman, a dog, cat, oasis, a helping hand, a saviour in this wasteland connecting nothing with nothing.
And then this man, this striking silhouette of a guy in profile with a guitar slung casually over one shoulder, appears before your blistered sight and just seeing him makes the pain ebb away.
Of all your belongings, it's the camera you treasure most. With it poised in your hands, you snap away hoping the silhouette isn't just another mirage. They say spending too much time playing in the sand softens the brain, weakening one's sight, but this man is too real to be false; his silhouette the darkest existence staining the horizon. He is a permanent fixture. Just like you. Your camera. The sand. His guitar.
You smile at the instrument. This is the solution to your puzzle. The man exists because his guitar exists, and his guitar exists because the melody is there, written in the sand saturated wind which sticks to your lips like bitter sugar grains and hardens your hair.
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the blades of grass, your fans,
swaying to the breeze waiting
for you to take your Fender
from your shoulder and play.
In a moment, you will pluck
a low E and the sand dunes
will melt away. The sky will darken,
the bass will play, the rain will come.
it's made by carrying
your stressed late nights
for trooping your troops
toward the drier savannah
what I carry now:
the glistening floss
of guitar string
than my own body
the symbolism of cacti
& love that pricks
i was on a mission
but now i am missing
traveling to the tune of you
without recognizing the means
i have to play my own
When the chords don’t come,
I go to the desert, feel the rifts
of sand under my bare feet
and look away from the sun
as I listen to the evening wind
strum through my guitar strings,
then feel my heart resonate
with the same hot pulse.
When the chords don’t come
to bisect the arc from my heart
to soul —the short cut to yours
when you were here— I know
I must travel that path alone,
the one of longing, even if
the moon smiles and the stars
twinkle to memories of lavender.
When the chords don’t come,
I go to the desert, feel the cactus
under my skin while its flower
blooms your name. I listen…
for the right notes in its voice,
play the same tune in the cleft
of my hobo heart, feel it bleed
when I’m alone in the dark.
I always thought silhouettes were charcoal shadows
but yours isn't. It's blue.
It's stuck on the flat screen of my heart,
where your guitar strings still pluck
sad and endless blood vessels.
A Monday morning pumps the pipes
to Julliard in the 60's, where you chase
sleep after your nightly projectionist's job.
Later we go to a Caribbean cafe, uptown,
to eat rice and love beans.
Our story and plates remaining,
He carried on for a while, making dum-dum sounds with his guitar, spitting up lyrics like a kind of sickness. People lapped them up. Before the show were the same pills and lines of coke; after the show were the piles, of money and drugs, and the lines of girls waiting, wanting signatures, and more.
Jake wondered how they did not notice his flesh had gone to flatness, a fine-cut piece of card in the shape of a familiar rock star. It was a pattern: the puckered, slightly pouting lips; the down-cast eyes with a wisp of lash; the large forehead, so of the fashion, adding to that brooding, broken-hearted look. You could imagine puppy dog eyes, the sneer of a soft top lip - but when he looked in the mirror all he saw was shadow. A cut-out, blind and featureless. A puppet, playing the same role over and over again.
One morning, after the parties had petered out into the usual small surrealisms and post-fuck slumbers, Jake left. He took his guitar, feeling its wooden weight as a comfort, the closest thing to a staff he could gather; and then, he walked out, into the desert, the beating heat of it, not thinking of a return.
Sometimes he rested, in the shadow of a cactus or, one time, beneath the spiked, punkish head of a Joshua tree. He saw a tortoise, potato-soft and slow, but plated with armour hard as stone. The sands shifted beneath his feet, sometimes they sucked a little, but Jake did not feel them. He was being blown by an invisible wind. He was as light as tissue paper, airy and insubstantial.
I ask myself:
What am I doing here? Who or what brought me to these unfamiliar surroundings?
Transported through time.
Is this a dream?
Will I awake and find myself back in a more familiar place, where I can continue my life as a musician?
Who will hear me now?
I will play to the desert hills, play until my fingers are sore
and I tire of strumming.
It is all I know.
I will create music, and be comforted.
The hills will dance to my tune.
I will be heard
If only by God.
each dust kick a mouth full of ashes to ashes,
building up for you,
blankets of thirst
for your journey.
and so the dry earth weighs you on it's chest,
your legs, sprouts doomed with each step closer
to the valley of transposition.
and so time sings it's spade downwards,
and so the earth tightens it's grip,
and so the sky tramples it's last beat,
and the notes keep playing,
from the riverside community.
Out there the wilderness waited,
took his voice: insisted that he search
to redeem it. His choice.
Through fevered days and freezing nights
beguiling stones chattered of bread.
He set his teeth - resisted,
judged the pinnacle of memory
no more than a mirage.
As the vast expanse of desert
flickered before his eyes, he turned away,
knew that his music, his voice,
would take him to eternity.
But you were built on sand
Your talent a mere mirage
A cynical packaging
Of someone else’s words
Of someone else’s song
In pursuit of celebrity
You disguised the hypocrite inside
Despising those who
Gave you fame and fortune
The fool’s friend
Lead to unguarded moments
And candid comments
You bit the hand that feeds
And in turn you were bitten
A career condemned to shadow
To wander in the wilderness
As a distant memory and become
A bargain basement
On a green screen
A place, where wide open shadows
Flowing round a figure
Wrapped in sombre music
Whose song will augur
Endings, and who's best
Gesture is a silhouette
A statue in the wilderness
Soon the light will gather
Moving from the mist outside
Into the baleful desert air.
Where are you heading Man? I hear you ask.
Nowhere and everywhere is my reply.
My guitar keeps me company on the long
and winding road to your civilisation.
I sit and strum – I walk and think.
There has to be a better life.
Somewhere open for business,
not closed and French-shuttered.
On my way to Calais – I will not be moved.
Then Britain to its shiny-gold pavements.
Rain stopped cricket.
I want to go legal,
not undercover on the underground.
I’ll busk on London’s streets.
Sing it like good ol’ Bob
and make an honest living.
I will make you proud my adopted land.
I will make a good home.
I will learn your British Values.
Give me a chance – open your minds and borders.
My mind is ‘blowin in the wind’.
Blowing me your way.
Blowing me out like a candle.
On the wrong side of the tracks.
We moved then with the times to modern music videos with backdrops of the Taj Mahal or New York cityscapes gleaming behind the dude with the electric guitar. He, regardless of the decade wears too-tight trousers matched with the compulsory matching black leather jacket and Stratocaster.
Modernity has as its sport a focus on what we held and lost; memorials to the inbuilt destructive nature of the human race. The empty great plains of the Native American contrast with the still of the musician. It drags the eye to the sparse grassland.
What lies beyond the silhouetted mountains? Water perhaps or new life? Or the bones and fossils of a sacred history, reduced to stock photo pop art supporting the climb through the charts of the latest rock wannabe?
The first note was low, his bass guitar sending a ripple into the air. Like butter the atmosphere became soft and thick whilst feeling pleasant and warm. The straight line of the distant land then made its first movement. A piece of string being flicked at one end and its force moving through it at a wonderful slow rhythm. A hum glided through the air.
When the next few notes began to flow out of his instrument, the view around him began to change. No longer was he in a room of four walls, surrounded by overly-priced equipment all glaring at him with the sort of judgement a head teacher would give to a pupil. He was now away in a land whereby everything mechanical dissolved into the sunlight he felt around him. The sunlight which did not exist in reality but did exist where the musician was.
He carried on plucking the notes, feeling the rhythm of his playing and becoming one with his instrument until his momentum hit its climax as the song began to rumble down to silence again.
‘Excellent, you can stop there. Let us listen back through it’, said the producer.
The musician stopped for a moment, observing what he had created. Like an artist he had painted a world around him. The distant views were clear and perfect. A freshness was in the air and he could feel the breeze that moved the hills of sand. Each grain, he felt, was a fragment of his being. An element of his playing, which now had formed into great dunes of musical wonder. Read more >
The contrast with you was stark. You could pluck and strum and still make it sound as it was supposed to even if we weren't. I could only moan with the current of machines and the base elements. You had your voice to accompany you. I had my hand reached out in shadow to clasp nothingness, to point at no-one that I recognised any more. To make signs of words that I could no longer breathe, in any air. You were out there, once removed from me, pointing your guitar at the stars, already naming one after me in your shape fuddled mind.
I twirled around under tented nights, hurt-spun by the rigours of my body but let's pretend otherwise. Let's say that you paced the arid land to build up the courage to pull back the curtains and sing me a song of enduring anything else but this. I could throw sand in my face and find a reason not to sing along. I could find an excuse for my rasping. I could pretend you still had the long hair of my youth. Of my life with you. There would be no negative charges, only the electrified noise of us clanging with life. There would be no hum. There would be no nurses. There would be no consent forms. It would just be me and you unplugged in the desert. Instead I am here in a medical biouvac of sterility where even your long hair is a threat. Where your guitar could upset me if too loud, say goodbye to me if too quiet. So, unplug me and do it now before you realise I'm not dancing for you anymore and I cannot breathe alone.
'Walkabout. You know, the place you go to find yourself?'
Aneme screwed up his face before pulling down his eyelid to smear on some half melted black eyeliner. Standing back he pouted at his reflection. He leaned forward, ruffling his hair and then sharply stood upright, making his eyes big and expressive.
'But wasn't he recently offered that major gig? So he just walked off?'
Stevo nodded, his glittery, black lipstick sweating like melted liquorice.
'Bass players are weird - Every One!' Aneme shouted, spitting on the mirror.
'He mentioned something about jacking into the Earth, bass resonances an' all that,' Stevo said.
Secretly Stevo envied him, he was getting bored playing keyboards with Aneme and the Anemones.
Suddenly the door was flung open and a furious mother yelled in unreal, metal decibels.
'What did I tell YOU BOYS about playing around with my make-up? DO YOU KNOW HOW EXPENSIVE IT IS? Get downstairs both of you and get washed up, your Grandmother will be here soon!'
The two boys glanced at each other, her outstretched arm a dangerous border, they ran forward, ducking under, she swiped at Aneme, her ring just catching his eyebrow.
'Not the face Mum,' Aneme shouted dramatically before tumbling-running down the stairs.
She rolled her eyes, regretting she'd ever suggested that her two ten year old boys 'imagine' they were in a band.
I am reminded of its uncertainty as I walk. It curves between sand dunes and out of sight. Reminds me of old cartoons that play the same background on repeat. Except for the occasional shrubbery, I am a victim of the heat and mirage plays with me. It seems I could touch the mountains, so small in the distance. Break up the sands to dissipate through my fingers.
Instead, the one stretch of tarmac road refracts heat, pushes it toward me from below and I am a pariah of avoidance.
There are people, shadows of pilgrims, on a similar journey. I walk alone. We infrequent beings have chosen silence for a time: a unity has crept up on us. It is as easy as me turning around to join you: changing direction, heading back. Could I take your hand perhaps? We do not know, either of us, what the other is running from. You, I presume, a band, or a wedding. I noticed only your guitar… would have to turn back, erase counted steps, to remember the dents of your face, the fingernails plucked from their skins, the stains from bleach on your neck.
And I am sure my ending is uncertain, I will walk til I run out of road. Not convinced of how distance works in spaces so untouched by human influence. Walk and count and presume their is a peace waiting for me.
I assumed of you the same when we passed one another.
your music changes, melding
with the harsh harmonics
of the landscape.
The mellow, smoky blues
leach away, replaced
by monochrome discords,
stark and brittle
as sun-bleached bone;
shrill and strident
as a stooping eagle;
They drop you,
fearing the crowd
will find your new sound
a little too close to home
leaving you stranded,
at the edge of the road,
somewhere between jazz,
forgotten to wrong you
yesterday isn't just a blip in time
it's the unity and struggle of two
chords that were mostly noise
guitar strings strung today like fragile
twigs of mango trees unseen
silence isn't golden
it's the storm brewing
"How the interview go?"
"They offered me a job."
"I turned them down."
"You did what?"
"I declined their invitation."
"I don't believe this."
"What don't you believe?"
"I don't believe you would throw what I did back in my face."
"Throw what, exactly?"
"I pulled strings to get you that interview, called in a few
"I'm sorry if you've been inconvenienced, but you must have
realised it wasn't my scene."
"So, we're back to that again are we, your insane ambition?"
"It's not insane; at least it's better than what you do."
"What does that mean?"
"It means you get paid a big salary for sitting at a desk telling
people how to invest their money."
"Well at least I have a proper job, I live in the real world and
I bring a wage packet home. You? You've been working at
this music thing for years and you haven't made a dime,
you're still strumming your guitar and busking on the
Read more >
Who walks in the desert without a hat, or sunglasses and with a guitar? No Westerner in his right mind would do this. And they know, the people of the desert, I am a Westerner. Firangi they call me, the one with the pale colour. But looking at me, now with this sunburnt face, I wonder why they still call me that, pointing, making a face, running away. I care about it, because I walk the sands, looking for friends. But till now, the only true friend I have, is my music. My songs are my family. Yes, that is how it is. Do I feel sad and lonely? A stranger asked me that, looking at me and wondering. He walked some way with me. I told him, “No. I don’t feel sad and lonely. I have the heat of the sun on my shoulders, the chill of the night in my bones, the songs of my life in my veins. I feel quite alive.” That is what I told him and it is the truth. “I am a stranger here, looking for friends. Does that sound strange to you?” That is what I told him and it is the truth.
“No, he said, “Not strange at all. I am like you too. A traveling man, a singing man. This is my destiny, to find myself in strange lands, with music as company. Not strange at all.” He said this to me and disappeared.
I am not looking for him. I know who he is. He carries a guitar and he walks the desert. He is looking for friends.
Grains grated, gathered
sands stood still, watchers
of time passing
of motion slowing
of heat radiating
energy, hot, too hot
wide white hot
expanses too dry
to cross, too lonely.
to call for help
for her, for him.
ocean waves crashed
The child lives,
nowhere to go.
a ghost – muted,
morose, empty –
stirs the sands in
the frozen ocean
would have mistaken you for a man
Maybe at a plane
or a cloud formation.
Maybe you'd seen the moon hiding in an unexpected place
and so with slightly open lips
you expressed just this:
or wait maybe you'd seen
a sun kissed and drenched rainbow.
Yes, anyone else mistaken.
Only I know
has just started the movement you make
as you play me
one string at a time
I know there will be bruises on the way, and I have to follow my vision without going astray. No trees to give me shelter, no winds to show me the way. All I have is the burning desire that satiates my hunger and the sunshine above my head, giving me the company of my shadow. It is going to be a long troublesome journey, but nothing has ever existed that can break the passion I have to make my own destiny.
For this path will lead to a beautiful end. Where I will rejoice the hardships that I had spend. Where I will be my best companion, who’s learned to fight for himself and make its own way and relish its own company, without any regrets, without a heavy heart, but only tranquility coming in to make home inside this chaotic soul.
strumming steps along the open day
I'm tuned in to the beat, my heart
burning bright, like the sun at noon
- every step brings me closer and it takes me away too
Along sand dunes shaped like nothing
I have ever seen outside of me
The coast is clear and from the search,
the song, a new path will appear
and it branches out like Velvet Mesquite.
Like the branch that scraped your head with twigs of blood in the backyard on the concrete you lay lost in the rays of a promised fecundity, you fell, the tree gasping.
'It's light', he promised, outlining your thigh with the tip of his nail bitten finger, along the ridge of bone where the mad things play with stability and tremor.
Not like the cricket ball that traversed your child hood sky, a shooting star of rubber, galaxy gremlin over hot bitumen, you in long socks and dresses made for pulling up. To the base of your neck it came to the bottom of your spine it moved, you made a girly squawk to mark the beginning of a journey set in stone.
'It's very light, made from ply board. Not like the hard stuff they used in the old days', he assures.
Unlike the bobcat munching on the roof, tiny shards falling from a demolition of memories in five seconds flat that overtook your hair in envelopes of words - a ghost dressed in black speaking in asbestos tongues.
'It's all so light', he whispers, towards dark possums scratching inside the walls, as soft sheets plaited with percale and threads that keep counting balance and yes it's true, everything is light: this leaving with no moving, this weaving of beige lies, this sticking to hope.
Reggie, of course, was loving it. He wore a sleeveless t-shirt and didn't have to lug around an instrument, seeing as he was the singer of their band. He was sweating, but in a charming way that made Brad sick. He hadn't joined the band to take glamour shots in the desert, nor did he care to see how much media event like this inflated Reggie's ego.
He chain smoked cigarettes and offered up no more then three or four words to anyone that tried to speak with him that day. His dissatisfaction made him stick out like a sore thumb, and none of his bandmates asked him to join in their touristy shenanigans after the shoot was over. He sat at the foot of his stained motel bed and tried again and again to send his agent a message. He'd written a manifesto in his mind about the way selling out like this made him feel, and how he'd hoped the next gig he booked could be "real". He didn't mind that the checks would be smaller, he just wanted his integrity back.
"There's something rank in the plastics. Don't take in the smoke. Look around the edges instead."
Zareh says if the bombs don't burn you up, the smoke'll turn your lungs to jelly. We cover our noses and mouths and search for something worth selling on from the scorched and scattered remains.
The naked man I find on my edge is face down. Zareh says not to turn him over. It puts you off your searching, staring down at the things you can't miss frontways. Like burnt eyes and blackened privates glaring and swelling and baking to crust. You squint a little harder in the light and feel like your balls might burst in the heat. It's just blisters, bruises and mottled reds and yellows this way round. Nothing to put you off your searching or eating. Zareh kicks at the ears and says I should too. It's fun to beat on a grown-up for a change.
The blast took the man's clothes, everything bar the boots, too big for us to walk in and too gooey to warrant touching. Zareh says you've no time to think when they kill you with a satellite. No time to choose what to cast aside or what to hold on to or where to run. Everything on you breaks in the first moments and fans out around you like fingers. Money burns up and pictures have no value but our mottled man has gifts for each of us: a guitar tipped out from a broken carry-case and a gun buried barrel-down at the tip of the fan.
Zareh pulls the gun from the sand and looks it up and down from spout to stock. He walks over to the erstwhile owner and fires two shots into his blistered back. Read more >
Somewhere along the way you lost what you had in this world that's filled with sound and fear and no music.
One foot, then the other.
I wasn't angry. How could I be? You did the thing I couldn't, darling.
You took to the earth with your right to claim what was so silently taken from you.
One foot, then the other.
Out in the open, you cried for Life to speak to you like She once had.
Sick of words, you cradled your song, offering up your one gift to Life.
One foot, then the other.
Your fingertips hold the sound of your pain. I can still feel it on my face.
Your hearing is better out here, you may never come back. How could you, now you know She's got your back?
Get away from us fast and go to Her you must.
Find inside you your temple of trust
your agony, your ecstasy, your blood, your lust.
Sing out your soul until there's nothing but dust.
One foot, Darling.
then, the other.
His hands ready to make music, and soul to meet with others, he was alone.
With million eyes waiting for him, he was alone.
He remembered the last time he was here, he was jolly and the words came out like breaths, but today was different, he was all alone, he was naked, people were cheering for his skin and his heart was shutting all the doors with every passing second.
He was afraid, for he was lost. Among the crowds were his friends, were his lovers, with whom he had spent countless days but his heart was aching. For days he was thinking to start walking, to walk away from all this, to walk away to oblivion, as he was pushed from one concert to another, as he was pulled from from one airport to another, for he was full of all things others crave about.
He remembered the sex he had last night for it was definitely not love making. He lay and thought about his hometown the whole time as the motion become monotonous and rigid. He remembered the last time he snorted the drugs up in his system, for which started out as a tryout turned into a craving in no time. He was still high on confidence out of it.
He remembered the first heart he broke, the first record he broke, the first bike he rode and the first concert in which he choked. Read more >
Your feet leave a soft imprint
in the sand,
of where you were;
a question mark
ending with your big toe.
Who are you?
as if to catch yourself
but the faster you walk the further away you are
from your beginning.
points to the ground,
a water diviner
in the desert,
a question mark.
Who are you?
One day you will catch up with yourself.
But for now
The ripples of bass,
If you stop, stoop and stomp
Your fingers longing for the cracks
That retch across the sands.
Sometimes I think I imagine it;
Hair toasted by the heat of the sun
My ear a shell,
Singing sweet nothings.
A lone voice, unamped.
Acoustic has romance
When there are people
In close proximity
Now it's just me
The sand absorbing
Shaping your movement
Dreading the time
The ocean comes,
I have slipped beneath the sand
unseen for a short time.
Granule nudges granule
time to go, nothing lodges here.
Dunes hesitate for a while
then leave this barren place.
White crystals slide past my skin
an empty sky says not welcome.
No path to follow, the sun burns
my back waiting to suck my footprints.
A soloist walks alone.
A t-shirt and a jacket ‘just in case’, the weather a blend of stifling heat and showers. Dark cloud materialises from nowhere, the threat of thunder, like an unexploded bomb, then in a moment... gone. August is a time of memories, some sweet, some lost in nostalgia, was it really that good? Was Margate worth the train journey? I remember when Bermuda shorts were all the craze and we were glad there were no more school days for a while. Then the dread of ‘back to school’, the adverts on the telly, stationery, the new uniform, pencil case.
Summers long ago, dandelion and burdock fizzy pop, pretending to be Huckleberry Finn, a toy Bowie knife, with a little imagination substitutes for the real thing and long grass where insects hide. Climbing over the garden fence to spend time with a friend and playing hide & seek at night amid shooting stars.
Summers are short, the weather is mixed, it’s a pity these things cannot be fixed, plans thwarted. Young Queens have left the nest to relocate, lay down the foundations of a new state, a hive, a colony. Read more >
He hadn’t flown at night yet, but that would come. He was a patient person. He knew that his name Allambee, which meant 'quiet place’, suited him well. You had to be still and free from anger living with the incessant buzz of flies, scolding heat and worse still the constant stream of eager faced people hunting for trophies to represent their holiday adventures.
He often felt like a visitor from another planet. An alien being fallen from a distant galaxy to taste the red sandstone dust and experience the harsh reality of Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa . Flowers only decorated the barren ground if it rained and they were scentless unlike the roses in the gardens of the big cities like Adelaide. A large brown Mulga snake slithered by, ignoring Allambee, in its pursuit of its evening meal unaware of the young man’s isolation, loneliness and dreams of other worlds.
There he is – clear as day.
The boy with the bass
And then gone, in a ripple of heat.
So hot now, relentless, baking.
My run just a weary plod.
How did I get here?
This is no place for a Sailor.
No place for any man who loves water.
Just a ship of fools here.
Bravado fades as the world ignites.
No shield from the flame.
Reality finds you and there's no escape.
But what is real and what imagined?
I close my stinging eyes and run.
With sparse vegetation and no footprints
Visible on the shifting sands;
The only human figure framed against its immensity
A little shadowy being, gender not revealed by the visual
That captures the subtle dualism of wilderness and kinesis;
The tiny guy carrying a guitar and a whole universe within those strings
And talented fingers that drum out magical notes out of that instrument;
The tilted guitar, phallic, extended
The silent arm at rest but poised delicately
Ready to strike at any minute in that hostile landscape
Almost friendless, scorched, a timeless graveyard of
The lost wayfarers and of fabled Ozymandias
The indomitable gypsy sick of civilization and its sins and hypocrisies
Searching perhaps a buried trail that led to some El Dorado once,
Or some dusty ruins that still haunt in dreams on solitary nights;
Alone, yet not intimidated by the vastness, in elements with ecosystem,
Strumming his fave guitar for the spirits of the desert eager
For this rare concert by a travelling musician
An artist not interested in riches and awards!
I know we’re stuffed as soon as I see the apostrophe shorting out.
Chairs stacked on tables. Maroon flock wallpaper. Sand blowing in under the doors. Thin girl passing a mop over last night’s spit-and-vomit.
Chris smiles. Winks. ‘Dressing room?’
She leans on the mop, snorts, jerks a thumb.
The passage smells of piss, the boiler room of vinegar and last night’s weed. We clear the cold chips off the table, unpack the instruments and squeeze onto the stage.
Wormy’s Little Brother is still humping in the speakers. He’s 14, skinny but keen, with a fondness for chemical highs and a reputation as a gifted but obsessive motor mechanic. Chris prefers him to Wormy Himself, who gets stroppy over his roadie cut and can never start the van first time.
Plug in. Feedback. Wah-wah not working. Lesley speaker somehow left behind in Croydon. Pete throwing a wobbler over a dented high-hat, Chris smiling his manager smile at a fat bloke at the bar. Fat bloke not smiling back.
Then the news. Not £100 each.
£100 between us.
Chris laughs, slaps shoulders. ‘We can still make it work. It’s a gig, when all’s said. We’ll be all over the local press.’
‘You know what.’ Don stuffs a few heavy glass ashtrays into his jacket pockets, straps on his beloved Fender bass and makes for the door.
Chris stops smiling. ‘And where the hell d’you think you’re going? No play, no pay, matey!’
‘Sorry guys.’ Don hauls the door open. Sand and sunlight stream in. ‘Should’ve done this long ago.’ The door slams behind him.
In my shoe
the whole Universe.
You are just
Seeking a sacred place
in your head.
disrupted the flapping
of shadows wings
we are no longer together
people are still in love
I dream and wait...
The rhythm of my heart-
out of tune
How sad is that ?
Son. Sing it to snakes.
Sing it to the vultures.
Sing it to the sandstorms.
Sing it to the darkness.
Sing it to the sunrise.
Sing it when your mouth dries
And you feel unstable,
Like the sand could tumble
Into an abyss. Then
Look towards the distance.
Feel the breeze as a kiss.
shadow, the space you inhabit,
deep, down, bass – (it’s all about) –
A silhouette of you, that’s
all I ever know: the brand,
You have a bass guitar in your arms,
not a child – that is the one,
still growing. And you
command crowds with the twist
of a finger, a bass, (how low can
you go) with the (sabotage)
shimmy of your hips. But you
and your bass-thumping (seven nation
armies) won’t control me.
The mirror of my
camera, bringing the noise,
will it be enough?
The joie de vivre of busking solo.
Smile, before everything changes.
Grasp the final weekend of carpe diem!
Boom and bust girl, love life in monochrome,
Until symmetry is invaded by a Lacanian cut.
Who knew a gap would open.
The appointment set.
Scan scientifically and see
An invasive black shadow on white grains of sand.
Suture that Jaques!
No hay marcha atras,
Snap away - Postures held as machines clank.
The gaze of jouissance in wholeness.
Selfies galore and the clinical poses.
That last photo – Who was she?
Breathe in the sea-side air, play on the sand.
Capture a denial before a truth.
Because now the mirrors will reflect someone else.
Hidden by an image in black and white.
Flagged by a small
That last photo – Who is she?
I am not lost
Though my mind is getting there
I turn to the true compass
Always pointed inward
My expressions, amateurish
Are yet heartfelt
Keeping me on the road to growth
On this here road
I hitchhiked with years-long meditations
Until you came for me
I should have refused
But I was caught in the rhythm of my meditations
Looking for material that would explain my life’s song
So I accepted
We spoke not of my calling
Nor of my destination
Nor my route
You asked me to remain silent
So I did
Not knowing you were tuning in
To the song that followed me inside
While I grew fearful
For the first time, my song
In such raw form
Exposed to the likes of a non-friend
Read more >
“You should have taken the pickup truck to one of those dirty stations for an oil change,” Lilas said, pounding her strappy faux-leather boots on the gas. The truck cried out like a dying elephant giving one last trumpet, before nonchalantly bumping to a stop.
“Not my truck,” I said.
“Well, it’s our problem,” Lilas said irritably. She tried restarting and failed. I manually rolled down the window, and hot air immediately pervaded the tight space. My lungs began to implode. Christ, we were roasting in an oven.
“A dozen routes to your sister’s wedding, and you choose a jaunty drive through the desert. Why in hell was that a smart idea?”
Lilas glared. “It’s faster. Less traffic.”
“No traffic, you mean. No one’s headed down this road.” I got out, walked over, and unlocked her door. Despite the mutual frustration, she stepped out and smiled sardonically.
I checked my phone. Fat lot of good- absolutely no service. Lilas dug out a map from the glove compartment. She looked at the map, at the smoking furnace of a sun, and at the map again.
“There’s a busier road that-a-ways,” she finally said, pointing west. “It’s only a two-mile walk.” Her tone raised a cajoling question.
How did I come to this desert of despair?
How long shall I pray for the sun to set?
How long shall my guitar become silent without a song?
How many times shall I cry to the Heavens above?
How long shall I call on the God of Music to put a song in my mouth?
of impressions across the sand:
left heel, left toe, right heel, right toe,
the weight thrown slightly
to the outside of his sole.
The footprints fade into the distance
like the final chords
of a favourite song
plucked on his old guitar.
After our gig at the seaside pub, we camped at the edge of the dunes. In the morning, I saw the woman who'd turned up and jammed with us walking along the sands towards the petrified forest, her guitar slung around her neck.
'Perhaps she's going to play to the seagulls,' I said. The flat sea-washed base of one of the huge stunted trees formed a natural stage. We were going up there ourselves later.
Jeff looked up from cooking breakfast. 'That would be a waste,' he said. 'She deserves a proper audience, she's so good.'
'Better than me?' I don't know why I asked such questions, but they came out anytime Jeff admired another woman for whatever reason. We'd had arguments about it. I'd told him he didn't have to be so honest. He'd said he didn't see the point of humouring me as if I was a child that needed reassurance. Today wasn't any different.
'You know how good she is,' he said flipping my egg the way I liked it. 'You're talented, but she's something else. I'd have her in the band any day.' He slid more rashers of bacon into the pan, sliced a few tomatoes. 'Want to invite her over for breakfast? I never even found out her name, last night.'
I glanced over – the woman had paused and was waving at us. Jeff, head down over the camping stove, hadn't noticed.
Something hardened inside me, a stubbornness maybe, rather than a jealousy. Why should I share him with her again today? She'd barged in without properly asking last night.
'She's too far away now,' I said, watching her walk on. Read more >