Monday, June 29, 2009


On a walk through the fields a few days ago, I noticed a few blackberries starting to ripen, so today I went back and picked enough for a pie. Blackberry pie on the 4th of July was a Cebah tradition, as close to patriotic as she gets (We pledge allegiance to our food.) and I've kept it up. Usually it takes some scrounging about to find enough by the 4th, but the season for blackberries has changed apparently - for the past several years they've ripened a week before.

I'm intending to pick enough for several pies, of various types, and a lot of jam. We ran out of jam this spring (unheard of) and had to resort to buying some (very unheard of). I missed out on strawberries, so blackberries are going to fill in the gap.

It boggles my mind to think that years ago, after picking all the blackberries needed for pies and jams I would knuckle down and pick an additional 5 gallons to make wine with. (!) I wonder if 5 gallons could even be found now, with subdivisions sprawling where berry patches once thrived. It took a few years to figure out how to make the wine well. It's as easy as falling off a log really, but still... I was striving toward something like a dry French wine, dry as a stone, not the simple nectary sort of wine that is easy to make with berries. What I made was very good, a few weeks after bottling, and that's as long as the 5 gallons ever lasted. Some people liked it a lot, and every drop was swilled before any time improvements could take place. I always suspected that if it was made slightly sweet, it would improve wonderfully in the recommended 3 years.

While I was picking I realized that I've never made any music concerning blackberries, and I'm wondering now if I might manage that this year, in lieu of the wine.

Five Gallon Day

Wild blackberries are ripe.
The recipe calls for five gallons,
and, of course,
there aren't as many good patches
as way back
when Jennifer picked her treats.

"Sweet, sour, sour, sweet..."
she named them each, according
to their nature.
This year
it is almost as though the Old Summer
days came back,
swelling sweet and black
on the laden canes.

So let the Bacchanalia of
the wild yeasts begin!
Beneath a veil, crazed for days
on pure white sugar, an orgy
of bubbling froth...
Strain it off. What remains
is new wine.
Bottled and sealed
if will improve with time.

So pick them now! Pick the best!
There may still be enough
to get gloriously drunk!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cricketbasket and Slatebottom:

My friend Gloria just sent me these images (they're a little blurry, but I kindof like that...) of some watercolor designs that I made back in the 80s. Cricket Basket was inspired by sonograms of cricket chirping, and tiny wicker pet cricket cages (oriental). Fishing Creek, west of the hill, is slatebottomed. The slate bottoms look blue through ripples and are slick as glass to wade on, but fun for that reason. And they make a different sound.

Head Shelf:

Friday, June 26, 2009

On the YACB shelf:


Yesterday I made a quick visit to the Magician to see HIS magic forest. While there he showed me something I'd done long ago, and forgotten about ~ a painted high chair for his daughter. I like it! I've been contemplating the role of decorative art in You'll Always Come Back.

The design is of morning glories with black damselflies (a small variety of dragonfly). The damselflies used to be common around woodland ponds and streams here, but when I saw them on the highchair, I realized that I haven't seen one for years. Sigh!

Traditional (Cartoon) ((from Japan)):

This reminds me of my friend, "Desert Fox", who could speak very proper British English, to be hilarious. Desert Fox San, kore o yakushite kudusaimasu ka! O wakari desu ka!

(Thanks William!)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Susan Alcorn; Suite for AHL:

When I began thinking of musicians to work with on You'll Always Come Back, Susan Alcorn immediately came to mind (she's always in the band of my dreams!). Susan is not only (for me) the ultimate pedal steel guitarist, but also a composer of great sensitivity. (as this video demonstrates.) We met & discovered our musical bond during Ballads of the Barefoot Mind, and I was honored that she joined the group for that concert at 21C Museum. We share love of the Tango, Jazz, & Country music ~ how many musicians have that combo? This video was the P.S. of her response to my invitation to participate in YACB - with a reminder that we've sworn to merge the natural combination of tango and country music. YACB could be the piece to do it!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Choose Your Head Wisely:

There's a Yoruba story that before we are born, we get to choose our head in Obatala's pottery shop. The people of Nigeria make some of the most beautiful pottery in the world, so they know a thing or two about clay. Well the story goes that most people rush to grab the biggest heads, or apparently attractive ones, without checking them out closely to see if they might have a little crack in them somewhere. I know this is true, and not just because I've spent some time making pottery.

After choosing their head, the people rush to be born. Between the other world, realm of the dead AND the unborn, and this world, the world of the living, there's an immense gulf strafed with cosmic storms. The newly chosen heads are bombarded with all sorts of adverse weather - rain, hailstones, lightning, fierce hard gusts, etc. and unfortunately many of the not so well made heads with tiny cracks crack even further, or supposing they're not sufficiently fired and still soft in places, then they will surely be in sad shape by the time they reach the portal of birth. All this intense happening is so overwhelming that generally speaking our minds are wiped out by the time we emerge as babies and we tend not to remember that we chose our head. This leads to wonder or even dissatisfaction with the head we have, and we spend the rest of our life complaining about it, completely oblivious to the fact that it is exactly the head we chose and no other, and that there's nothing and no one to blame about it, not circumstance nor anyone but ourselves! It is so simple, and yet almost no one realizes that all you have to do is look into the mirror to recognize that your head is your own, and moreover, you owe everything you have to it. This is why the head is the most important orisa. Before you offer a sacrifice to any other, you should first consider your head.

This scene of the choosing of head is the second one in You'll Always Come Back. Pete chooses his head from the many stacked on the shelves in Obatala's pottery shop.

In Yoruban, the word for head is Ori. Here's what wiki-wacki says:

"Ori, literally meaning "head," refers to one's spiritual intuition and destiny. It is the reflective spark of human consciousness embedded into the human essence. In Yoruba tradition, it is believed that human beings are able to heal themselves both spiritually and physically by working with the Orishas to achieve a balanced character, or iwa-pele. When one has a balanced character, one obtains an alignment with one's Ori."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Napoleon in Estonia:

Napoleon in Toulouse:


I met Napoleon back in 99 when Secret Commonwealth was workshopping The Approach of the Mystery. We've kept in touch, and I'm hoping we'll converge our creativities in You'll Always Come Back. I only cry about beautiful things ~ the work with students at KUMU got me. Beatboxing/mouth/body percussion was called "patting juba" in the old south - one way to keep the beat when drums were contraband. Pulse, music-making, speech, and dance all converge in Napoleon's art, contemporary and ancient at the same time.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

You'll Always Come Back ~ about the story:

It’s August in the hilly country of Southern Kentucky, 1931. On a hill, in the Dutton family cemetery, my father, age 16, is digging a grave in the heat-hardened red clay. A family stands by, watching him dig. Pete, the man whose grave he’s digging, who played with him when he was a child, who helped raise him, who told him stories ~ came to their home place as a slave.

That was in 1845. Pete was eight years old then, when he and his brother Charles, age six, were given as dowry from my great grandmother Lucy’s family in Missouri. Her husband, my great grandfather, Daniel Dutton, brought Pete and Charles, on horseback, to Dutton Hill. Eventually Charles would leave – where to, or why, I do not know. Pete stayed until the last 2 years of his life, spending those with his daughter in Danville, Kentucky. But he must have impressed his desire to return to The Hill upon his children clearly. When he died, they made what must have been a difficult 50-some mile journey, through hostile territory, to bring his body home for burial.

The Dutton Cemetery is not far from Pete’s Spring, a fine source of water pouring forth from the limestone bedrock in a little holler on the eastern side of The Hill. Pete made his home in a cabin on the level ground just above the spring. He married and had children. After the emancipation, he and his wife, Jenny continued some sort of working relationship with my grandfather, Daniel Hoskins, and his wife, Sarah Belle. Her ledger books show that Pete bought supplies on the Dutton account at stores in nearby Somerset, and he was evidently involved intimately in their daily life – my aunts and uncles recalled him helping dress them when they were children, and he gave at least one of them a gift that would have cost him dearly.

Of the spring there was a saying that if you drank from it, you would always come back. It was curiosity about this bit of family lore that lead me to wonder if the saying originated with Pete, and if so, what the meaning of it might be. My attachment to the land and its waters is so intense that the meaning initially seemed self-evident ~ but what sort of imagination originated it? It’s been said that you cannot go home again; apparently Pete did not share that view – he made his home by the spring, and he came back to rest near it for as close to eternity as a body gets.

There is some precedent, in Africa, as well as other places, for the idea that after death some aspect of being, what could be called the ancestral spirit, merges with the elemental quality of the local spring, becomes, in essence, the spring itself, and thereby perpetually returns to nourish its descendents. For the descendent of a slave owner, whatever the relationship of labor and return might have been, it is a challenge to claim Pete as such an ancestor, but the truth is that his life nourishes mine, and the stream that flows between us is love. This story, which I’ve titled You’ll Always Come Back, is my testimony to that fact.

The spring, now a seldom visited spot in the midst of a housing development, is an actual place, and the history of the events surrounding it, how the virgin forest was cut and sold in Louisville and Cincinnati, how the land was farmed by a family with customs, some quite strange, connected to their origins in the land now called Germany, of the ancient white oak they chose to live by, of the Civil War battle fought on The Hill, which Pete himself witnessed and told of, how the land was almost lost to the family, and then finally was – all these comprise a story of known things well worth telling. A meticulous historian would gather the names and dates, put them in chronological order, and tether the whole thing with a narrative line, certain that the vanished past must bear some relation to how they imagine it.

But if Pete did imagine that an ancestor and a spring form a continuum, I suspect that his world would defy any linear sense of history. In that case, art stands a better chance of verity. Be that or not, I have chosen to situate You’ll Always Come Back in the intimate realm of my own peculiar method, where imagination deforms and exaggerates, where the tangents between dream, matter, and time are free to intersect in the present as well as the past, where the unknown can present its mysterious possibilities. Perhaps the best case I can make for the relation between his story and mine is that although separated in time, we both drank from the same spring.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Box of Toy Soldiers:

At the beginning of the 2nd Quarter (The Battle of Dutton Hill) - the little boy walks down a hall to the white god to get a box of toy soldiers. As he takes the box in his hand he sees empty whiskey bottles behind the throne.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Head of a Rooster Warrior:

Rock Carriers:

A sketch of the rock carriers who begin the formation of Dutton Hill, under the primeval sea, some 600 million imaginary years ago. They begin standing in tubs of ink, then walk on paper scrolls so that their macrame'd skirts calligraph pace lines as the aeon counters signal passage of time. I suppose they are Salamanders - since in the otherworld of magic they embody submerged creative fire; in the history of substances world ~ tides, currents, floods, mud, sand, and the millions of creatures that will vanish in the space before we arrive at 1845. Their headdresses are willow wand crowns, with contact microphones attached, so that any brushing on the logs suspended at the illusionary waterline above them is a sound event. At the end of their passage, the rocks are dropped on an amplified metal plate.

Pitman Creek is home to the Hellbender, 2nd largest salamander in the world - only Japan has a bigger one. Amphibians, so we're told, were the first vertebrates to emerge from the sea to inhabit the land ~ onto the sort of mudflats that would eventually form the limestone of the hill. I could recount this as a child, but my dad corrected me concerning the source of the Dutton Hill rocks. Those arrived when the Devil, flying over with a load of rocks, broke an apron string and dropped them.

This dance reconciles the two origin stories.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Evening Primrose:

Andy Warhol quipped that he had "social disease." "I go to openings. I'll go to the opening of anything, even a toilet seat."

When the sun went down on the dandyland gardens, I brought lawn chairs out beyond the rose hedge so that Cebah and I could watch the Evening Primrose opening. Just as twilight arrives they give a sudden little audible pop and the petals unfurl. It is much, much better than television. Not that that's saying much. It is exquisitely suspenseful and very entertaining, and lovely.
My cousin Barbara gave me the plants a couple of years ago, and they're just now getting big enough to bloom. So far there have only been two openings, one last night, and one tonight, but later this summer there will be dozens each evening. The show's going to get more eventful.

The writer and historian Wilma Dykeman, (now departed) was a friend. Not only did I adore her ever curious mind and personality, but she was the only person I've ever known who wore primrose yellow powder makeup, just a light dusting, along with yellow clothes and hats that made her blondness spectacular. She once slipped off from a fairly droll social gathering we were at, whispering in my ear as she said her goodbyes that she had to be out of there, it was almost twilight and she was going to a primrose opening.

I feel sorry for Andy sometimes, but I suppose I shouldn't.

June in Dandyland:

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Gift:

For her daughter’s sake, or for a whim,
Chisato’s mother, ancient spry and tiny elf,
Led me to the temple corner where she’d left
And blossoms, and a celadon statuette - of
Kannon, Goddess of
Mercy, standing on dragon coils,
willow wand and water jar
held in her hands.

“There’s a white snake -
she tells me, as her child translates,
It comes
because it’s beautiful (I’m not sure
if she means the offering or the place.)
She wants to know if you want to have?
She says she can send it
Anywhere in the world.”
I’m frightened, but I answer yes.

I haven’t seen it, yet, but Gabriella
Said it waits, behind the door
In a yellow room, that’s hidden somehow
Within this space. Upon her dreaming foot
It pressed the mighty weight of
It’s protective tooth.
And she, a seer of
The elemental truth
Was spared (because she’s good) and made
For me a diagram
Of room and door, with where
And how of feet and snake. On it
She wrote, Dear Dan,
Thank you for the healing sleep
In your beautiful house, and
For the dream that will never be
Forgotten. Please give my regards
To the white snake
When you meet him. Love – then
Off she flew, back to Iceland.

Years have coiled round
The world, since I stood
In the incense fragrant temple shade,
And Chisato’s mother has passed away,
Before I could understand, much less relate
The meaning of the gift
She gave.
Dreams flow, friends and lovers
come and go, clouds cross the moon,
the floorboards creak ~ at night I hear
rain dripping from the eaves and
know I'm safe.

Goddess of Mercy, who listens with
Compassion to the sounds of all the
Inter-nesting worlds,
Please inform her
the gift is here, and though
I’ve neglected until today
To set out rice and flower
For the little snake,
I am grateful.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How Pete became Lightning:

Pete, floating in the green-gold rippling
surface of Pitman Creek, seen
As a mussel might, from between
bottom gravels, undulating with
Interlacing rings of light, cuts the white
Orb of the sun with a man-shape of black.

From the eye of the red-tail hawk
He spies as he floats on his back,
He’s copper on jade, laced with curlicues
Of fragrant ink, that thicken to a thatch
above the sex that attracts a second glance
of appreciation if the sight should strike
a raptor’s eye like mine.

On the dark-centered orbs of his own,
The blue and white flocks of summer
Cumulous drift in reflection, gauging distance
And height without really caring, because swimming
Is flight in thought. With one muscled sweep
Of log-thick arms, and a long-toed kick
He slips across the divide
Between earth and sky, hearing the odd loud
Warble of breathing,
ears just beneath the water.

There must be some such summer moment
In every sensual life, when the high dome
Of honeysuckle encloses the perfect
Beauty of the body’s repose, exactly at the center
Of a floating world, a bead
On the thread of a kingfisher’s
Dipping flight, flashing, as minnows
Roll to flash, radiance leaping up
To pierce the primal light.