It's the way I go
where the gales blow
where the waters roam
You might think I knew what I wanted out of life early on. That there was a five-year-old me somewhere in San Antonio playing air guitar and jumping off the bed, stage diving in pajamas, always knowing that I was meant for performance. But that's not the case, well not entirely.
I found my calling in high school while taking a correspondence course in American Lit. I fell in love with the Short Story, and pretty much all written word. Fitzgerald first, followed by Hemingway, Twain too, I jumped a bunch from then and just started reading everything I could. I was captivated, obsessed. I needed to write. A few great teachers led me on. Introducing me to the Beats, Hunter S. Thompson, Vonnegut. It was all I thought about.
I knew I was going to be a writer and fantasized all the cliches: University! Better: Ivy League. no run away...a vagrant poet... go to Europe, ride the trains, or ride the American trains, build a lake front cabin, be a prophet of Time Square... I wanted to do it all. Often dreaming in classes that had lost my interest. For me there was only the word: write. There was only one problem. The writing didn't come, or at least not the way I hoped it would.
I tried short stories, which were my favorites, but I had no idea where to begin. It seems easy enough: tell a story. It is much harder once you get the pen in your hand. Staring at a blank page of infinite possibilities. Stories can go anywhere, but the longer the page lay blank, the more I felt the possibilities narrowing. The more I felt I was going nowhere. The short story gave me and my dreams a beating just shy of dead.
Had he been awake,
then he might have heard,
in the breathless wind
the tillers start to turn.
With a careful hand
'ssured he'd never rise
till she pulled him back into her arms
Then she whispered soft
of her lonely song
needing his warm embrace
wanting his gentle charms
of her crying nights
till he's by her side
till she pulled him back into her arms
I needed to start smaller. By then I had been to a couple creative writing classes, read some books, made some bad attempts at a lot of writing, and found that my best bits came in short phrases. Not whole stories, not whole chapters, or pages. Not even paragraphs or sentences. But fragments. Little groups of words that moved right. That sung. Flashes of ideas that sparked success.
I started to collect them. Re-arrange them. Re-work them. It was tough, but I eventually made them look like poems. Not great poems. Nothing I felt I should start submitting, I wasn't that naive. The really good thing about them was, they looked and sounded like poems. Which was good enough for a start.
As he held the shroud
looked into her eyes
his fingers lost their grip
and began to slide
till she had him back into her arms
But when it comes to writing a story, novel, poem, or song: I still need a story. Something I can give. Something to anchor to. Writing visually focused helps solidify the idea. This is still the hardest part for me, and it seems for other writers too. Whatever you think of Kerouac, his Rules For Spontaneous Prose have some good advice:
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
As goofy as it sounds Bookmovie is the modern American form. That is why I feel the books that attract the widest audience, get made into movies so consistently. The story in exact pictures. So I was really excited when a full story came to me. Even if a simple one. A sailor, a boater, drifting in a small vessel at night. Falling asleep, letting the currents take him. A living ocean, pulling him into the unknown, like a ghostly calling to the water, to death. I saw every frame of it. From beginning to end and tried to put what I saw to music.
Earlier I wrote how Loud Is The Night was composed of vignettes, little stories, an album of fiction. This one was a visual story I'd been wanting to tell for a while. It might have started as a dream, a daydream probably while I wasn't paying attention in school. Falling into the water, an abyss, giving away control like I had nothing to lose. School gave me that feeling sometimes.
My favorite part of Where The Waters Roam comes at the breakdown. When the words actually fall away. The drum beat rumbles a steady wave with the bass. The organ swells like desire and the guitar slides an ethereal melody like a distant siren. I love that the music sounds like the dream felt. The other great part of that song is the chorus was unexpectedly enhanced by two members of Dr. Dog. They helped us so generously with a lot of the vocals on Loud Is The Night. I want to say thanks again to Frank and Scott for being so kind.
It took me some time to get the story to fit the melody. The chords and melody of the song were written by Abe and Jaime. I had to write the story into it. I don't know if the song came off as lyrically strong as I had hoped it would... the music and melodies are still amazing...but I am proud of it. Some kind of hybrid between The Supremes and Pound, I tried to write with his grumbling deep voice reading the words in my head. It is something I'm always trying to improve on. Making Songmovies.
Where The Waters Roam has a unique feel. Other songs were snapshots of stories. Chapters. This one felt like a beginning and an end. A complete idea. Songwriting has become my medium. I still write a lot of poetry, and have recently begun a new attempt at short stories, also a blog, but songs are where I feel I found myself. Part of the purpose of this blog was for me to work through where I have come from as a writer, to look back and see how much has changed for me. How much I have changed. But now I also see that it is about defining myself. And where I will go. Into the dark. Where the waters roam.
My fingertip held against my lip as the camera,
I wasn't even aware it was stuck, slowly closed in on her face.
Like a train rolling in she wore no surprise just soft anticipation.
Even softer than missed popcorn in the falling dark.
How many times will she live this? How many times will she wait?
Longer than celluloid, a digital eternity.
It is heaven. It is hell. Waiting for a kiss.