Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Flow Between Storms" @ The Cottage Bistro

Forest fires and fog have created a rare air quality alert here in Vancouver, B.C. The news just featured a woman on vacation standing with a barely perceptible island in the hazy background. “I’m from Southern California,” the woman said, “so this is wonderful.”
So Canadians cease cardio-vascular training for the day, and we So-Californios tell them, “Situation better than normal.” Did they have fires to make me feel at home? I swear I didn’t mean to bring them with me. Even in the smoke I could read the inscription on the south side of the Peace Arch, which says, "Children of a Common Mother."
But indoors is not such a bad place to be. I read and played from Light in All Directions at The Cottage Bistro, a blues hang on Main. Les Clarke the host made me feel right at home. He played a Bill Lewis guitar and even offered to let me try it, one of 24 ever made. David Gilmour plays a Lewis on Pink Floyd’s “Money.” Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page also played Lewises, but the luthier Mark Wilson passed away at a young age and the guitars were discontinued.
You could see Les loved this guitar and his work at The Cottage Bistro. Before he opened the night, he told me about some health issues, but when he leaned back with the Lewis during his set and shredded some blues, he changed his state of mind and ours, too.
In this environment, poems like “Hymn of Enough” were well received. It’s interesting to see how easily the blues leads to gospel. A young man named Yonny Vizzala came up after my set and asked about the “spiritual” quality of the poem. “Hymn of Enough” is one part Genesis 9:17, one part Matthew 6:10 and tragically only a fragment of California’s endangered species list. Of course, every poem also strives to be one part Exodus 20:16.
Anyways, Yonny has been in Vancouver for four years from Venezuela, so he mentioned “Men in Trees” being interesting to him. I didn’t really know how a poem about Southern California’s migrant workers would go over in Canada, but Vancouver is a city with many migrant workers (So why are the gates open between Blaine and White Rock? Perhaps the $1-to-$1 exchange rate takes away an economic incentive to go south). Yonny says he wants to go to Los Angeles someday to rock ‘n’ roll, but for now, there’s plenty of that in Vancouver.
At the end of my set, I performed “Flow Between Storms,” which began as a poem, but given its topic of guitars, it fought to become a song. The music revised the poem, so for anyone who wants to contrast the revision to the version in Light in All Directions, here it is:
Two gray clouds drop bronze notes
through the storm behind my eyes.
I’m a tree in this rain,
my fingertips, the leaves.
Songs are seeds of memory
sown into the dust.
The roots dig down and the limbs reach out
to carry the rain to the sun,
yes, rain runs from the roots to the sun.
There’s no drought in my heart while it beats
with the rhythm of waves rolling over the depths of the sea,
waiting for the breaking.
Guitars are seeds exploding across the shell of sky.
The wood grain swirls against the saw opening a hurricane’s eye.
These storms overhead, are they blessing or wrath,
metaphor or subterfuge?
This song that you hear is a fragment of faith
something survives the deluge
between the blues of daylight and the blues of night.
It felt good to be playing that song with Les Clarke’s Lewis made out of African ebony and Honduran mahogany sitting on the stand a few feet away. I thought I’d feel something about my Grampy's being from Canada, but Quebec is too far from the West Coast. Vancouver is more about the Pacific. The place reminded me a bit of Singapore with its shops and clean narrow streets. I didn’t feel like too much of a stranger; though far from home, I wasn’t alone because the blues were there ahead of me.


  1. bring back the men in the trees
    bring them back today...

    (la guitarra ranchera strumming)

  2. Yup. I played "Men in Trees" VC-style all the way from Hermosillo to Vancouver and back to Tijuana. Maybe I'll break it out at Declamación Ecológica.