Not My Week

During week 26 of #songaweek2016 I’ve been traveling with my parents & kids to visit relatives out east. No guitar, very little alone time, no special recording equipment. “But I said I’d write, so I’m writing right now . . .” and this one got recorded on my phone in the car on the way back to my uncle’s house from a day at the Jersey shore.

 

Life in These United Hates

When writing my Week 24 song for #songaweek2016, I was feeling the weight of hate in our country – the Orlando shooting, Donald Trump rallies, comments sections and Internet memes of all stripes.

Tried to write something coherent, but I think I felt most strongly the wordless singing part. Not my best week, too squeezed for time this time, but I’m committed to doing this every week and posting it here, so here it is. With electric guitar by Nathan Bloom.

This can’t go on forever

this can’t be all we’ve got

this summer afternoon that’s raging

bloody blazing hot

but does that mean that nightmares

are clinging to its heels?

and for the thousandth time the moon

looks sadly down on killing fields?

Aah . . .

 

I wish you hope and courage

and strength and wisdom too

I wish you all the healing balm

that love and peace need to take root

and when your heart attacks you

with fear and dull despair

I wish you hands that hold your own

and voices vowing, I am here.

 

 

Luminescent

Some of us are just destined to do most of our work in the dark. We choose it – sort of – and it seems to choose us too. Not much spotlight, not much sunshine – but oh how we glow in our finest hours – alone in the studio at midnight, on a stage in front of five actively listening people, putting the finishing touches on a poem in the corner of a busy coffee shop.

My song for Week 19 of #songaweek2016 is dedicated to all the introverts, melancholics and not-so-go-getters who persist in loving this noisy, busy, sun-worshiping world through the deep, dark, luminescent art they faithfully create.

 

I’m the glow after the blaze

More subtle glance than open gaze

I’m understated

not overrated

i like my coffee black

i like a strong dark beer

and if you want to be sweet with me

be bittersweet

 

I’ve been singing in the shadows

From the day that I was made

I’m luminescent in the moonlight

but in the sunshine I just fade

 

Don’t cover me in kisses of pure joy

I cannot play along

mix them with tears

be salty sweet

My daydreams never hold a candle to

All the beauty I dream in the dark

Keep your sparkling diamonds

I’d rather have stars

 

I can’t tell you why I’m like this

It’s just always been this way

I’m luminescent in the moonlight

but in the sunshine I just fade

One Poet to Another

Grabbing some moments at the coffeeshop and combing through old computer files, felt like it was time to post a little something. So here, a poem about poems:

One Poet to Another
2/18/13 Julia Tindall Bloom

When I remark that my poems are not as good as yours
I am not denying their breathing reality.
They are real-live poems
I know, I was there at the birth of each and every one.
I am only admitting
That I love them too blindly
Keep them too close
To see them straight
And seeing the healthy bodies of yours
Functioning beautifully
Independent of your protection
I recognize my babies still have some growing to do
And so does my love.

Dark and Dawn and Dag Hammarskjold

In the soundless depths before dawn
you are with me.
You are not only in the lightening of the sky
but also in the embracing dark of this room.
I wait for you
with you
and the morning
like the night
is faithful.

^What I wrote this morning,
and then
what I read:

“To preserve the silence within – amid all the noise. To remain open and quiet, a moist humus in the fertile darkness, where the rain falls and the grain ripens – no matter how many tramp across the parade ground in whirling dust under an arid sky.”

And also this:

“Is your disgust at your emptiness to be the only life with which you fill it?”

^Both quotations from Markings by Dag Hammarskjold

Other People’s Work

Read any good books lately (besides your own)?

Frederick Buechner said, “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” It is exhilarating to discover this place and then get to work in it, pay or no pay, day job or not, published book or engaging tweet.

But without a healthy sense of self, a grown-up level of security in our personhood, we creative-types* can begin to identify ourselves with our work. We become the work we make. And then, instead of celebrating the good work that other people do in our same field or genre, we start to compare our work (ourselves) with theirs, become annoyed and critical, and sometimes just stop listening to, looking at, or reading other people’s work altogether.

Nobody can tell it, write it, sing it, film it, or whatever your thing is – like you can. But you are one voice among hundreds or thousands, maybe even millions, depending on your particular medium – and each of those voices is also unique. Some of those creators are better at using their voices than others, some are still working to find their own voice at all. You are in there too, somewhere on that continuum.

There will always be people who make better work than you do. “Better” is wildly subjective and depends on all sorts of things like budget, public opinion, connections, aesthetic, age, experience . . .

But as I’ve listened to and learned from creators I consider to be “better,” I’ve seen a common thread. These are people who pay attention to other people’s work. Musicians who rave about other musicians, poets who immerse themselves in other people’s poetry, filmmakers who go into great detail describing how other people’s films have inspired them. And they tend to seek out work they consider better than their own.

That takes a healthy sense of self, a realistic perspective on one’s own work and calling. It’s humbling to remember that other people picked up guitars and made up songs before I could tie my shoes – that I was not the one to discover music. Sounds crazy-obvious and astonishingly arrogant when I say it like that, but these are the sorts of unvoiced exaggerations self-delusion sneaks into our minds if we don’t acquaint those minds with the voices and work of other people (I know, because I’ve been there).

And so, I think that one significant mark of maturity in a creative life is when you can be moved, inspired, and challenged by the work of another (especially a peer, someone living and working in your field, even in your particular circle of influence), without feeling threatened, jealous, hyper-critical, or compelled to copy.

I’m not saying that these feelings shouldn’t surface as we interact with other people’s work. In fact, they almost certainly will and should as we mature, but if we recognize them for what they are and continue to create in spite of them, they will prove to be very helpful teachers and teach themselves right out of a job.

So hit the library and grab a book of poems, subscribe to somebody else’s blog, go out and hear another singer/songwriter at your local coffee shop, go to somebody else’s gallery opening. And feel your mind broaden, and say a little word of thanks for all the brilliant voices in the world.

* In this post I’m writing specifically from my perspective as someone who tries to create on a regular basis, but these ideas could probably apply in other fields of work as well, and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on that.

Farewell to Virago

Minnesota motorcycle season started shockingly early in 2012. So after a couple years of borrowing or renting motorcycles for the occasional day trip with my Boomer biker parents, Nathan and I decided that 2012 was the year to buy one for ourselves. In March – yes, March! – on a sunny, warm spring day, we brought home a 2002 Yamaha Virago 250. Black, shiny, classic.

And we rode. Friday night dates, weekend rambles, and one four-day getaway to the North Shore, just the two of us, the road, the green earth, the wide living sky, the water and the trees, the friendly towns and quaint cafes.

There are many drug-free ways to free the mind, to unwind the soul and dip in a refreshing stream of ideas and impressions. But I have found nothing that compares to riding on the back of a motorcycle behind my best beloved, my denim-clad knees cutting into the clean wind, my booted feet resting solidly on the pegs. Riding with Nathan is a delightful blend of solitude and togetherness.

This year, we followed a dream that led us west, away from free and easy childcare (namely, our parents), towards climbing mountain roads – and therefore, away from child-free rides on a low-powered motorcycle, towards Nathan riding solo or with one of the kids on the bigger dual-purpose bike he recently bought.

DSC_0036

So this week we pulled the Virago out of the garage to take some photos and make a Craigslist ad. Together we shined it up with soft cloths, and I said I felt sad. But as we talked and remembered that we had only bought the bike last year, I was comforted to realize how well we spent that time. We packed a lot of memories into that riding season, and I know we won’t sell them with the motorcycle.

In the future, only a few years from now when the kids are a little older, the two of us will probably ride regularly together again. And then, if we are still living in Colorado, our Friday night rides will be more majestic and adventurous than back roads through farm fields and prairie.

But whatever the future holds, farewell to the Virago means farewell to a chapter in our lives. A profoundly good and well-lived chapter, one I will read again from time to time in my memories, the photos we took, even the songs and poems I wrote in that larger-than-life, incredibly long Minnesota motorcycling season of 2012.

I posted a rough recording of one of those songs here. And below, a poem. (Instructional moment for non-bikers: in rude and sexist biker lingo, riding on the back of a motorcycle is called “riding bitch.”)

Riding Bitch, Refined

7/12/12 Julia Tindall Bloom

Viewed from the back of a bike

The world is poetry

Cows are bovine mother figures

The road is a ribbon

Every sparrow is joy embodied.

The retiree on his riding lawnmower

Is turning over Keats or Kerouac in his fertile mind

And the biker with whom we just traded the low sign

Is rolling through The Moldau in his memory

Because nothing else would do

As a soundtrack for this movie.

Note: I think I always associate Bedrich Smetana’s The Moldau with the road (even though it’s about a river) because my dad played it in our car’s cassette player when I was young and we were traveling. Here’s a link.

Rejection Letter Submission

Dear Editor,

Please find enclosed my submission of a rejection letter to replace the one you always send to me.

Your letter uses the word “unfortunately.”

(“Unfortunately, your poem has not been chosen. . .”)

Or something along that line

As if the gods were not with me

Or I didn’t choose the winning lottery number.

 

I submit the following:

Dear [Name],

Thank you for sending us your firstborn child.

Everyone here at the office is touched and amazed by her beauty –

The soft rounded rosebud lips

The sky-blue eyes

The tiny grasping fists.

Surely not another like her will ever come along again.

So you can imagine how honored we are

At your astonishing generosity

In sharing her with us.

But it’s simply too much – we can’t accept such a lavish gift.

With something so exquisite in our midst,

We would never get any work done!

Please accept our deep gratitude,

Our sincere apologies,

And our best wishes for your future with this unspeakable wonder

And all the dazzling beauties you have yet to produce.

Sincerely, etc.

 

Thank you for considering this submission.

I look forward to reading it on your stationery soon.

Sincerely, and so on.

Matryoshka Doll

Here’s a poem I wrote last year, about my multilayered identity of recovering good girl, wife, mother, and aspiring artist.

Matryoshka Doll

When they drop by the house
I am in my apron in the kitchen.
In their eyes I see a glimmer of worship
At sighting a domestic angel.
My young son is building superstructures in the living room
And I am baking bread
So I am a stay-at-home mom
(Apparently).

Once, remarking on my unpainted face,
Someone asked for counsel
About wifely submission.

They find me writing at the coffee shop
And praise my husband for giving me time off
From what (apparently) is my real work.

A little girl within
Believes them
Craves their favor.

A woman deeper still
Knows more
Feels lonely feisty misunderstood
Amused
Angry stuck sad useless.

At her heart is a human
Being
Living
Gestating
Faith hope love.

The heart of her heart
Throbs with the secret
And the strength
Of labor
The grip of death
That releases life
And, once more,
She breathes.