Friday, May 19, 2006

Missing me

There was a time in my life when I was extremely artsy. I sang in jazz and a cappella groups, composed cheesy folk music and worshipped the Bach cello suites (on viola of course). I pretended to be Ethel Merman in the spotlight on the stage and dreamed of wordplay like ee cummings and Lawrence Ferlinghetti in my poems. I even left the familiar Jewish camp world to spend a summer at a socialist arts camp, where I wore all black, smoked cloves, and spent 6 hours a day making music.

Surprisingly, when I moved to New York six years ago, I lost touch with much of my artsy self. I still sing, play music at Kol Zimrah, and write rhyming birthday cards to but music and poetry do not play central roles in my life in the way that they once did.

There are many reasons why this change came to be. First, I have yet to find musical groups that have the right balance of serious musicianship and pure fun for me. Most formally established music groups are either essentially professional or too easygoing to sound good. Second, my involvement in musical performance has been complicated by the fact that I have become Shabbat observant. Growing up, I did not automatically think of Friday as Shabbat, but at this point, the Jewish weekly calendar is ingrained for me. I would not feel comfortable performing on Friday night because Friday evening is sacred time for me when I to reflect and connect with myself (not because I feel I can’t or shouldn't). I recognize that there are many Jewish performance groups that don’t perform on Shabbat I'm not particularly interested in performing Jewish music. Finally, when I was in college I discovered social science and fell in love with it. As a result, much of the energy I spent on poetry was re-channeled, and I've found it increasingly difficult to write freely, rather than analytically since.

Why am I telling you this, you ask? Tonight I attended a great event at Makor. It was a multimedia performance event promoting Zeek magazine's latest issue “Boundaries and Transgressions. There were live solo and group musical performances, poetry readings, and a slideshow. I loved it and realized how much I miss the arts, playing the viola, singing jazz, and writing poetry. I also really miss the artsy me. (Well except for the black-wearing clove-smoking part).

In that spirit I've decided to post some old poetry of mine here. I'm hoping your reactions to my work will inspire me to pick up the pen again. Here are four poems. If you like them, there may be more to come.

Procrastination or Observations

shiny linoleum
black and oatmeal tiles
are not quite complementary

he removes his glasses
and taps his pen
to the beat of Blakey

she scratches her had
hoping to grab ideas
for her pen-toting hand

her head, back on the chair
she sees the ceiling
as a quilted doily

I lick the end of my pen
the feel of his mouth

I take down my hair
and survey the room

high pitched gossip
and bass murmurs

buzz buzz buzz
computers and
noses blowing

an unfocused stare
I imagine that
my cell phone is ringing

I yawn

Prufrock's Sonnet
(based on the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot)

The glass, gateway into a crowded room
Outside and tickled by the yellow haze
am I, encompassed by nocturnal gloom
and endless stare as I ponder a phrase.
Will I? Would I? Could I? Or do I dare
Intrude upon this elegant soiree?
And risk retort or disapproving stare?
Surely, they'd disapprove of what I'd say.
Wrinkles are pictured on the window;
Self-reflection obscures my parlor view.
Inside the women talk of Michelangelo
nonchalantly not knowing why they do.
While I, though mere outside observer be
tickled by only fog am truly free.

Espresso Eyes

Espresso eyes
gaze into mine;
Electric smile
shocks me
shakes me

"Do Southern tongues operate differently?"
I wonder

as he speaks,
I return his stare

As he hands me a latte I say,
"Espresso eyes I long for a taste
of your coffee."

The coffee boy replies,
"Are you sure, it's quite bitter"

The scene is fuzzy, sight through a screen door
Ba dmm doo wah , they rest on velvet chaise
Ba dmm doo wah, red velvet, and they sink
into the floor with each note Mehldau plays

dee Bop doo we bop da, their classes clink
their nervous toes in trance with cymbal brush
Closing their eyes, shot back to Billie's day,
dee Bop doo we bop da, their shoulders touch

Intentionally, slightly, but enough
A syncopation--Doom--evoking heat
dmm Wah dmm, they reach for numbing liquid
dmm Wah dmm, a touch is bittersweet

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