forget the golden rule
your silence has caught on
Mustard Corduroys (made in California)
the great wildflower wilderness
yellow as Spanish doubloons, American schoolbuses
hydrants, chariots, sixties Volkswagens
the Yoyo, the Surfboard
like this day with plans that fell apart
yellow as brick roads, jackets, submarines, pages
and the last light that is a ribbon
untied, out of a tide
Thoughts of you.
Draughts, a few.
– written next to a rock wall on the Kona coast.
Dear April 2014,
The first quarter is well in hand, like half the change needed for a phonecall, arcade promises, a giant gumball, but enough to flip over in your palm, if you can make heads or tails of it.
A multitude of beginnings stir in the grass. Earthworms tunnel a proper sentence, a root, a subject waiting in the soil, a blade of truth and memories like clover flowers sprouted, sprawled in no particular pattern that a bee might buzz back and forth between before flying down another avenue entirely. A gust of April rain falls diagonally through the air and hits the world at an odd angle- to rest.
Life on the island rattles, groans and suddenly fans out like fumes from a cracked exhaust pipe. The weather sops, burns, chills, and blows itself away to other states. It is hard to feel like you are going anywhere. Your work sits like a garden ignored, penchant underbrush, poems like thistles left to climb up fencepost novels and ideas like fallen fruit with seeds exposed for passing brown birds.
I am much the same as I ever was. I am still hammering words into various structures and holding down some pattern of strings on the guitar. Day in and day out- these two things are rivals, remedies, some rescue, some relief. The island is still here and I am still on it and time is still caught on the day-breeze against the sandy grains at the edges and inside strange rocks and volcanic mountains. I still have my old fears and I love far more than I can understand and I still cry, laugh, speak at rather inappropriate pauses in my day-to-day existence. Insights and oversights keep my mistakes genuine and heartfelt.
My mind wanders back to last April. My imagination runs away with me, I catch myself offguard, oranges and apples, apples and pears, chasing the blues away, yellow as double lines, arguing and agreeing in the same breath, forgetting to walk or chew gum. I stop myself and start again- admonitions and apologies. I keep going in the wrong direction- every time I turn around. I have to stop thinking about the past like I always do and always have. I have to force myself to start dreaming about the future.
I forget. I remember. At the end of each day, I turn the shower faucets and I think about clockwise and counterclockwise, hot and cold, the future and the past, on and off, and what directions is the right direction to be going.
On some hot afternoon when nothing was going as planned, I stopped trying to follow my own plans. I think April started to get better after that.
I have two guitars: ‘Twangy’ and ‘Barrel’. Both were gifts. Named for their respsective sounds, Twangy is my first love and what I play the most. Barrel sounds just like you are playing from the inside of an oak barrel- and also sometimes like barrels are dropping all around you- having just missed their aim.
Now, I keep meaning to decribe ‘M’- because she’s somewhere in most of my stories, calling shotgun or taking the lead, I can hardly keep track. For now, let’s just say ‘M’ confirmed that I was making no progress doing anything useful with my life on one particular April afternoon and advised that we abandon everything to take Barrel to the music store an hour away to replace his top peg. Somehow, two hours later, I wound up with twelve new steel strings on Barrel, instead of six- which is not so bad a deal as all that.
Kevin was blonde and I had heard him play the banjo in the past. This time, I noticed two matted dread locks lost at the back of his neck, and I wondered if they had always been there and whether I’d just missed them before.
M sat on a red Fender barstool, while I loitered under violins and ukuleles dangling from the ceiling. Halfway through the Barrel’s repair, a tall man in pale jeans and white hair walked in to do repairs on somebody else’s banjo. After Kevin finished up with Barrel and I embarrassed myself by making sure I could get a discernable sound out of the twelve new strings, I offered Barrel back to Kevin. It was my best decision to date. He jangled effortlessly, re-tuned as if he had answers to questions I hadn’t asked yet, and it was then that the other man grabbed some guitar off the wall behind me and before I had blinked, both men were lost in a rhythm, a metronome of wild instincts, a moment that so often happens when no one is looking in living rooms and garages and backyards. I was humbled again by the way musicians can comfortably sync harmony without having played together before. The music bounces back and forth without missing a beat, you get that feeling like the conversation is getting good, you don’t catch all the words, you don’t understand everything, you just know you are overhearing something great. You are just lucky to be there. And something flared in me, as before, a pang and longing to be part of that great sound, to be part of the great long conversation that is happening all the time in different places in countless languages.
Hawaii can feel like an abandoned studio. It’s just yourself and the sea wearing yourselves down, repeating mistakes and losing track of the time. Of course, you aren’t alone. You’re just playing with something much bigger than you are. Can you fall in sync with the old sea? Can you pick up the echo at the last corner of the world? Can you let empty miles play backup and can you find an answer for the harmony of mountains? I think it’s okay to keep asking these questions again and again. Life is about looking forward to new responses to questions you’ve been asking for years.
April. Days in. Days out. It’s an old pattern I’m holding down, but to some song I’ve never played before, a rhythm I’m trying to sink and sync into, in a language I am still learning. I meant what I said. A multitude of beginnings stir in the grass. Hello again from some green sunset in April.
the rest and more than I can understand,