Friday, August 12, 2016 - Gastonia, NC
No king, only a horse, a quarter
a walk, a dance,
an entrance through the back
for a show up front. Up front,
inaugural, the show that begins
the roll, the motions of rolling,
in and out, early to late.
Better late than never, no king
or every king said, giving tips
and taking little and giving every
thing to give, the sweat and pride,
especially. The smile ostensibly.
No king, only a horse, a quarter
of an hour that is the beginning.
The entrance. The roll.
The drumroll, we roll.
Saturday, August 13, 2016 - Charleston, SC
"weight of the water"
the water here
for cooling and crashing
the water there
growing and flowing
with a weight that pulls
and pushes, holding
cars, couches, the junk
from drawers, the fish,
and fence posts and fertilizer
and all the while, holding atop
the tools for rescue,
the newly rescued,
the buoyant few
the water here
blossoming like flower petals
pounding the pavement,
the playful, and the patient
inviting its abuse, the rush
of the rushing
the ferocity of summer
Sunday, August 14, 2016 - Raleigh, NC
"Splitting the Mountains"
Mountains by moonlight,
a blur of lines, of fog, of miles
spent remembering and anticipating.
We mapped the highways
in our minds, from Charleston to Raleigh,
from Raleigh to Knoxville,
from bacchanalia to work,
from work to nostalgia,
nostalgia to sleep.
We mapped roads taken
with songs from decades
too long ago to miss
but recent enough to inflate
with meaning and lumps in the throat.
The road will do that.
A forced meditation, a lesson
in patience and not seeing with eyes,
eyes that only follow curves
and lights and signs.
The eyes blink. The mind holds steady,
remembering cold nights and hot nights,
cold hands and warm hearts,
warm hands and cold hearts,
the slow finish, the fast start.
Monday, August 15, 2016 - Knoxville, TN
It was all I could do to sit in silence,
with the clock, a cat, and couch cover
after a day so full of noise:
the bright, the warm, the fuzzy,
the gritty, the harsh and dark,
the wanted and unwanted.
The day moved like a sound wave,
rising quickly, plateauing quite loud,
dying to quiet depths before
rising to new heights of noise,
the audible, the visual, the sensory
overload, then the end,
where the wave drops off,
stops in an instant,
and leaves you sitting, staring
steadfast at the wall
which does not move, does not talk,
does not ask
anything from you.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016 - Johnson City, TN
I remember most the men's bellies,
bare and glistening, entering first
as though at the beach
or on the sofa, and at rest
over waistbands after a long day
hot. It was hot,
in the room, but a welcoming heat,
steam rising after the rain
and coffee brewing
and cheese melting
and beer enticing from mason jars
in the hands of men with
great confidence and slurred speech.
The songs were warm, too,
like fresh dried laundry I imagine
in the laundromat next door.
The getaway cooled us
with lumbering shadows of tall mountains,
bluffs we could see and not.
The getaway cooled us
with its wind on our backs,
its night on our day,
and the promise of friends
beyond the turn.
Wednesday & Thursday, August 17-18, 2016 - Asheville, NC
Red was the room with black curtains
we exited to find the moon
we'd been following for days.
Asheville was the perfect place to be
back stage with its wealth of sights,
sides and skies. The skies,
marvelous by night
and day, too. The water falling
from rocks and clouds
and eyes at the end. The hills
such gracious hosts. The hosts
making warm days warmer.
Breezes brought laughs
like magic dust that colored us
rosy and tickled pink. The color
washing us over and from within,
beckoning a return before we'd left.
Friday, August 19, 2016 - Staunton, VA
An eery yellow sheen quieted the drive
and the streets as we arrived after close
but before darkness, its draw. The hum
of the moon was heavy overhead, oozing
over carpets and through rooms with open doors.
Endless stairs led up all varieties of persons
whose moods waxed and waned
and shifted and pushed conversations
palpable in presence. Presence
is the key--rooms full of people and ghosts
and smoke slithering and laughs booming
and love pouring and anger mounting like it does
on a Friday in a 5th floor bar half-lit by full moon
and empty lamps. The music fought
to define its space. It was present, too.
It toyed with the chaos with waves of calm
and a few slight dips into madness.
Saturday, August 20, 2016 - Baltimore, MD
"The Corner Bar"
No rules, no rights
or wrongs or questions
to answer. No one to
answer to. Regulars,
ravens, bright lights
that kept the room dark.
Long breaks, sore fingers
every night familiar
yet a first
and yet forgettable
in the way familiar details
get fuzzy faster
No sights, little taste,
like a Friday
but on Saturday
with drier breeze,
the same bartender,
a different man.
Sunday, August 21, 2016 - Washington, D.C.
"DIY with Crickets"
crickets stole the show
swelling in and taking solos
we didn’t even notice
until the end when the audience
applauded and all remarked
on their execution, their complement
to our rain- and sweat-soaked songs
they let the air out
so to speak and welcomed us
to Washington where everything
poured, even the rain
that did not wash us away
that did not cleanse us
that did not live
up to any metaphors
or stop the show
where mosquitos danced and
and I sang, unable to see,
home among the leaves,
wet beneath the trees,
Monday, August 22, 2016 - Long Branch, NJ
lived up to its expectation by
taking me back to the days
of the youngest ones
and the beginning of the end
of one chapter, a crucial couple
of years that began with ice cream
and a board walk and a trip
up the Turn Pike to the big city
greeting us without greeting anyone
in the sun-lit breeze, in the blackest black,
in the shower of neon,
under the blood moon, where the water
boiled and lapped at ankles,
salty, aggressive, and glowing
inching everyone towards the brink
as a Monday night will
with its martinis and whiskeys
and cheap beer, scowls,
and apathy and songs
that spread the dark over us
like butter on toast, soaking in
greasy and rich
Tuesday, August 23, 2016 - Philadelphia, PA
"considering all angles"
angling towards sunny skies and lighter breezes and the release of pressure with walks about and laughs finally after a night of unheralded ick and now taking in the old with new eyes and spirit everything a bit calmer and carefree when at the rocky steps we pushed on and did a dance and watched the people moving in every direction like us but not like us and hot in our clothes getting ready for a restart and a variety show a family reunion of sorts long lost cousins we didn't know and may not know again but for a day and a night enjoyed the camaraderie and oddness of it all playing our hearts out and feeling the shift the turn the bend the angles aligning the walls softening and leaves rustling the way you want them to because fall may very well fall in time for you to catch it
Wednesday & Thursday, August 24-25, 2016 - New York, NY
"New York Minute"
you've made it
to the bathroom wall
there you are
staring back at you
as in a mirror, where a mirror
should be, by the soap
and you laugh, all lacquered
not taped, implying permanence
in Brooklyn of all places,
a borough of New York
City the big city
in the United States
that every one loves
all the "I"s love NY
and if you don't you don't say
just like you don't say
to the owner of the bagel shop
in his greatest city on earth
that he forgot some ingredients
on your bagel
because it is great any way
because this is the big city
where a pregnant woman
sings with two mics and loops
and a MIDI controller
and you say YES
you go girl and she does go
bigger and better
and busier and YES
you say again
and again because that is
what you do here
you love and yes
yes and love
even when choking
on thick black air
that you can't escape
even in the shadows
of buildings you crane your
neck to see the tops of
because this is the top
right above the sink
next to soap and fuck
and frank and a can of beer
you set there
while you relished
while you washed
Friday, August 26, 2016 - Burlington, VT
you open your eyes to a flash
of blue light sweeping over everything
the blades of grass by your face
the trees and the girl's back
just a few feet away, and the water
and sky broken by a line of boats
just across the boardwalk
from where you tried to sleep
in a park with your head on a bag
like you see people do from time to time
when you are not tired and you wonder
if it is a leisurely afternoon nap in a park
or out of necessity because they
are so exhausted they can't imagine
doing anything but closing their eyes
before saying something ludicrous
or crashing a car or forgetting their words
or even falling asleep singing them
to people who have no idea
what kind of 48 hours they’ve had
prior to this attempt to sleep in a park
with their head on a bag
and wishful thinking about dreaming of boats
on a breezy day gliding over water
with a sun-kissed face and another face
they want to kiss but are not so lucky
because they instead dream of falling
for an instant and shudder in the grass
startling awake after a fruitless two minutes
awash with blue
Saturday, August 27, 2016 - West Dover, VT
Living below sea level makes it easy for height to steal your breath,
and living in a bowl makes it easy for an inversion to propel you
and your mood to new heights and sights and sets your sights
a little more firmly on what you know you want out of this world.
More days on mountains, for instance. More solitude. Maybe even
more cider or syrup even though you don't much care for sweets.
A day can fill itself with people and still offer time up and time down,
and the transport is not just physical, you learn. The road, the lift,
has changed you. "Was it worth it?" they will ask. Worth what,
you will want to ask them. What is this inversion worth?
Sunday, August 28, 2016 - Winooski, VT
I did not want to leave Putney, the journey
through the woods, the winding roads,
the barn party that appeared in the night.
Winooski could wait, I thought
for the woods and meadows of wildflowers
for the sticks that smelled like home
for the quiet I had found in the air
that filled my lungs with joy. A bridge
of trees over a brook, over rocks
and leaves and us leaving--no
I did not want to go. My grandmother
everywhere here, pulling at my shirt
saying let's just rest here awhile
in the vegetable garden, under the vines,
amidst the trees and trails someone
like us lovingly cut and bridged
with taut trunks when the snow melted
and the brook babbled and green grew
up from the ground and the tops of rocks,
sprouting from limbs we ached to climb.
Winooski waited until it couldn’t
and I took in everything I could
one more deep breath and a photo
and wished the road to carry me quickly.
Monday, August 29, 2016 - Chocorua, NH
"At the Farmstand"
Some days are unreasonably perfect
and you know around the corner
is likely one unreasonably imperfect
so you soak up everything you can
like a blueberry buttermilk pancake does
a pad of butter and a conservative pour
of pure maple syrup, everything pure,
both clean and innocent, abundant, too,
as it was for Adam and Eve
before a snake slithered up
and curled itself comfortably and confidently
by the door of the perfect, pastoral Farmstand
in New Hampshire
Tuesday, August 30, 2016 - Cambridge, MA
The day buzzed in gradually,
heat licking and weighing me down
as though gravity was pulling
a little harder than usual, pulling me
southward and eastward to the water
I could not see. Nervous energy
fluttered about in the car, in the air,
in the basement where I left my wallet
and a beer can before taking on
evening and hoping for a release
from whatever pressure was building
or pushing or stifling the pleasantness
that these students exhibited:
reading books in the parks,
drinking wine on the sidewalks,
flirting with guitars under tree limbs.
Arriving felt miraculous, like an impossible
run through water to find land.
So dark, cool and welcoming,
the folds of this tiny place,
the smiles and handshakes,
which shook from me the heat
and revealed the skin of my arms
as mine again, and such gratitude
I held for the day's surprise ending
and the total enchantment of a toad's hollow
amidst a maze of winding streets,
a tiny window into some future.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - New Haven, CT
"Striking the Balance"
Do it for your heroes, they said,
and so now I think about my heroes
and wonder how much it is I do
for them and what that even means
and what my heroes might want from me
if I were to offer something. Offerings
are easy to come by--and favors--the world
always bargaining in trade. I wonder
how often they strike a balance and if
balances are most common or
if imbalances are the norm,
if I am throwing away money
or pulling it in because money is
what we are always balancing,
and when the days tilt upside down,
rolling head over feet, sun over moon,
it is hard to argue whether
the dollars float upward from my hands
or flitter down into them,
whether it is giving or taking I do.
After the show, me and the bar
each negotiate to our own benefit,
and I'm left wondering for whom I do this.
Is this all for me? Am I my own champion,
hero, villain, or just an accidental victim?
After the tour, what will hang in the balance?
What will it be that I offer?
Thursday, September 1, 2016 - Pittsburgh, PA
Blue lights loud night out on the town,
out off the schedule, but on time
into the random blue moon full of boys
enjoying the night and each other
and dancing in drag while plucking dollars
from the doting eyes of does fawning and falling
over themselves in joy and laughter.
I felt at home among my brothers and thought
of family lost in Orlando, thought to smile in their honor
at the love still propagating in bars across America
and this one in Pittsburgh. In the mirror, in the glass,
I watched and laughed and spun to face the music
with a front row seat, for once on this trip, and took it
all in with a breath of stale smoke, a sip of cold beer,
and a lingering chill on my dry and lonesome arms.
Friday, September 2, 2016 - Cincinnati, OH
The light reminded me of Minden, Louisiana,
and the man, too, jolly and white-haired,
with his grandson playing and the table set.
Home and family, abundance and food,
thank God and kind people for these
invaluable moments at sunset by the river.
Saturday, September 3, 2016 - Louisville, KY
"give and take"
the entrance unlike the exit
though the same
hurry up and wait
the name of the game
grit your teeth
and smile babe
you're lucky, it's loose
a night inane
Sunday & Monday, September 4-5, 2016 - Nashville, TN
"The Gilded Stage"
The great American dive bar,
a gem, buried still, or is it
a coin by the gutter waiting to
be found by some unfortunate soul
looking for thirty-five more cents
which will make enough for a cold one?
I take it all in stride, never knowing
which it is, which lucky or unlucky
soul am I because so much is about luck
or, rather, being prepared at any moment
for any encounter. A woman emerges
from the shadows and purchases a CD.
Where did she even come from?
The night feels sticky, and I don't mean
the heat, I mean sticky like gum
on your shoe and old beer
on the table where you've set
your elbow and the smell of dried ketchup
in a teenage boy's car. The night
stuck on me like bonfire smoke,
which you let be because
you have no control over
which way the wind blows.
Familiar music from a familiar face
brings a welcomed warmth
to the cold room, making
the red redder. In Nashville,
you take it all in stride,
the rise and the dive.
It's a laughable journey,
the plunge to the top.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016 - Oxford, MS
They usually use barricades
to keep the fans at bay, but
a cage can also form a stage
as I learned in Mississippi
where long t-shirts over short
shorts made me feel like
I was at some dream-like
pajama party in a dingy,
neon-lit garage full of smiling
faces, so kind and green,
growing and engaged
and excited to be at a
pajama party in some
singer's dream. The songs
escaped the cage
with suprising skill, garnering
praise for the welcome
contrast to something...
something I was never
aware of but totally aware of
as happens in dreams—
the thing around the corner
or on its way from somewhere
or behind you and you can't
turn around. The night
was all spectacle, including
myself. I don't remember it
ending--don't think I ever
did wake up.
Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - Clarksdale, MS
"The Finish, A Fraction"
There is always a need, when the journey ends, to sum it up, average it out, qualify and divide, and come to some great conclusion. It was great, the conclusion. The journey was also. And also the opposite. If I am the sum of my experiences, I am occasionally great. And also the opposite. By Clarksdale, I was done. But the mind always knows how long it has to practice patience, how long to sustain energy, and how near is comfort and rest. The Inn provided a perfect end, with its quirks and gifts, a surprise by loved ones, flavors of home and a foreign audience. We found ourselves surrounded by cotton and mosquitos, everything lovable and yet left with longing. The feeling of finality sweeps over, the sum of all the other feelings you can't describe—like a bottle full of rocks you tilt to pour, but nothing falls out because a few have wedged in the neck, preventing one another from escaping, all bottled up without choosing to be. So you turn it again right side up and shake the bottle to loosen them. You try again to pour them out, but they continue to collide and wedge, and over and over you do this until occasionally one or two pop out, but it's always insufficient and each one is hardly the sum of the bottle. Metaphors aside, here is a sum. The song was the fuel for the journey, and now the journey fuels the song. Therein lies the worth, whenever someone asks.