Monthly Archives: October 2009

Songs for People Who Can’t Hear Part V: Voodoo Lady by Ween

I hope y’all have enjoyed this little digression into the world of detailing music.  The month is over now; with November comes something new.  For now, enjoy the last entry in our series of Songs For People Who Can’t Hear So Good (And Want To Learn How To Do Other Stuff Good, Too): Voodoo Lady by Ween.

Another song that intros with just percussion, but something is amiss here.  The notes of the percussion instruments – and one doesn’t usually think of percussion as having notes, just beats, but this does – seem to bend and warp over each other.  The first thought when this song begins is: I’m in a funhouse.

And the funhouse feeling doesn’t end there.  A bass enters the song with a spartan riff stolen straight from the Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer, just as a man begins speaking over the music, saying only, “Boogie boogie boogie boogie!”  We’ve gone from a funhouse to a Halloween funhouse on acid.

A guitar enters, play very twangy, bent notes, and then a voice comes through with a tinny, bassless cadence as if the song is being sung through a very quiet megaphone.

Oddly, this song reveals itself to be a torch song of the most unexpected caliber.  Though no woman I’ve known would ever be warmed in the heart by a space odyssey on wax like this, the lyrics cannot be denied.  “Doin’ that stuff that you do / Messin’ me up with your voodoo / You drive me crazy with that / Boogie oogie oogie oogie oogie oogie oogie oogie!”  It’s odd, but it’s love.  Same with the next verse: “Your lips are hot and spicy /
Servin’ up red beans and rice. / At midnite she’s a-howlin’ and stompin’ / Makin’ love to the gators in the swamp.”

If a carny man wrote a torch song to his paramour, it might end up like this.  But unlike almost anything else a carny touches, this song isn’t gross and covered with axle grease.  It fulfills the promise of the fair – it’s light-hearted, imaginative fun.

Download link: Voodoo Lady by Ween

and something else

Brother clutches his ears and attempts to remain fetal on the slippery floor, the boy’s howls and laughter driving him temporarily mad.  Tracing the source of blood, he spots the body of his brother.  The small one’s sounds snap him back from wherever he internally had been, as he wades his way in tears and unspeakable moans towards his little stabbed Cerebus, slipping on all limbs as he crawls.

The other man still living pushes up against the dry top of the kitchen door which has fallen on the linoleum.  He gets to his feet, the door the only steady place to stand, and motions for the little boy to leave.  The unfettered child inquisitively cocks his head to the man, who proceeds to growl, bearing his flat teeth and four minor fangs.  The boy turns tail.  The man feels foolish, but it worked, and when it comes to life and love, these are the things that matter.

His head is spun at the shriek of brother, who has finally loosed the knife and is attempting to charge, convinced the assailant remains.  The man removes his coat, flings it upon his new aggressor and jumps, sliding across the kitchen’s length, mopping coagulate, butting against the father’s body.  He pops up off former daddy and runs up a stairway.  He begins frantically opening doors, searching for a room with a window large enough to let him out; where and into what is not his mind.  What is are the flying footsteps behind him, the ones that he knows know the rooms.

A window large enough for a large man, situated in the bathroom’s end wall, low enough for a child to reach from a commode, will do just fine.  As the man bounds, his jacket-less back is slashed by brother’s blind swipe.  He lurches, slides, steadies and leaps, slipping at the last, thanks to a worn rubber sole.  He never makes the weather.  It wasn’t the sole that done him in.  Winter-braced windows aren’t made from movies.  His force was true, but only enough to see him half-way.  It would have taken two of him to get clear.

At impact, his face took on shards, leaving it quilled like that of a new red animal.  In slow motion he felt himself lower, tip to stem, on the wide, pointed remaining piece of window beneath.  To brother, his body hung and died.  To himself, he continued to fall.  A razor-rashed sandpaper pain ran through his belly, out his back, and was gone as he continued to drop without sight, as if slicing heedlessly through the house and into the ground where he began.

When he was last on a beach, he’d thrown himself at the waves, and after, laying exhausted on the sand, closing his eyes, he enjoyed a beautiful make-believe spin, warmly flipping end over end.  He felt it now, only he no longer felt himself.  In perfect water, pulled in a current, he opened his eyes.  No surface, no depth, no breath, no drowning, and something else.

Kids on a Rope

Wandering, ambling, waddling, slow,
they walk on my bike path, walk in the road:
kids on a rope. Why are kids on a rope?

Velcro shoes muffle the shuffle of feet;
Autumn winds wisp through their lisps, missing teeth.
Kids on a rope. Why are kids on a rope?

Bundled in coats though it’s 60 in fall,
don’t stray too far, children. Don’t stray at all,
kids on a rope. Why are kids on a rope?

You can’t hit your students, teach God or Huck Finn,
but you can tie them on a line to stay in:
kids on a rope. Why are kids on a rope?

Songs for People Who Can’t Hear Part IV: Tennessee by Arrested Development

A shaker and a cowbell tap out lonely notes as a man and a woman spar over one word: Tennessee.  It seems like a performance art piece, or a poetry slam – but it’s the second of those that is more accurate.  Right in time with the drum’s entry, a chocolate-voiced man with a bit of a hobo grate to his voice begins to rap, with a very poetic cadence and bearing.

As the song progresses, its poetic feel begins to take a stronger and stronger presence.  Background music and vocals are just that – background.  The song becomes a platform for the main singer’s words – he is like a preacher delivering a sermon. “Take me to another place,” he says, “take me to another land. / Make me forget all that hurts me / let me understand your plan.”

It’s as if he is a man sitting on a corner, alone, asking God for guidance with the crumbs of his life.

Download link: Tennessee by Arrested Development


The hinges stay with the door, crashed in with such force that it bounces off backwards, flopping as if it were trying down the wall for new openings.  A frightening young man sails past splinters and shards of glass yet to hit the linoleum floor.  He leaps before his boots will disrupt the pool of blood, Cerebus’s remaining life spreading full and fast.   His brother wrenches seized hands from his father’s torn shoulders.  The body begins to drop.  Daddy, tranced, looks down at his hands, knifeless and clenched, as if in prayer, leaving inside his little C a shiny memento, an accidental offering to Chairon.

As if timed through years of secluded practice, the frightening young man in the boots has launched himself headlong over the corpse, its hair tossed by the razor-thin pocket of heavy air between everything, and into the sternum of a father who only sees a head compacting a cavity.  He no longer breathes.  He sees the ceiling.  He looks to where he’d been standing.  In his view is a stranger, fiercely driving his head into his stomach.  He feels nothing;  feeling and time left with his son, but he hears unearthly intent in the stranger’s motion as he takes in the ceiling again.  The top of the skull is the hardest part of the body.  Oil fills his eyes; like a switch, sound is gone, and he follows.

Boots glares up from the stomach.  Brother glares back, hands releasing the temples of his late father’s head.  And the clash is on.  Tell me I’m here, says brother.  He rushes the young man, who, falling backward, grips him before they slide with Cerebus along the pearly linoxyn, creating odd caligraphy.  Brother attempts the knife, lodged through maters and slippery at the handle.  His grip lost and seconds gone, he’s kicked against a cabinet.   Momentum slides Boots into a wall corner next to a fallen door whose hinges {little doors themselves} have closed.

There’s a howling where the dog-flap guillotine used to be.  There’s a boy in his pajamas holding the most menacing cotton-stuffed wolf yet made.  He picks up a piece of glass, caping it against his safety’s back.  He’s amused at his wolf’s super accessory, a clear cape, and howls again.  He peers into the kitchen, and laughs at the funny four figures on its floor.

{i swear purgatory’s around here somewhere}

My Sonnets Look Like Minnesota

We whistled to the city from a hill. Nothing.
Yelled. Nothing. We turned around, tried to bounce
our voices off the mountains: the echoes
earned a small ribbon from a street fair.

We walked away from the city, stumbled,
upended a garbage can a town over.
A telegram came: congratulations
on the success of your work abroad!

We built a city of our own overseas,
libraries, contemporary art
museums, scale replicas of St. Paul’s,
Doric columns, monuments to ourselves.

The city sent official delegates,
keys, big scissors; asked us to go back home.

How I Died Trying to Rob a Wawa While Wearing A Panda Mask in New Jersey Last Week

I had gone through the plan at least thirty-eight times in my head. Any more than that, and it either would have started to bore me, or else I’d start over analyzing the whole thing and getting nervous like I do every time I try to talk to that girl at the Starbucks on Route 10. I think her name’s Amy (I read it on her nametag. Is that creepy?). No. Thirty-three times. That was the optimal amount of times to run over a scenario before you’ve just got to get it done.

Thirty-three? Thirty-eight. Whatever. I wasn’t actually keeping track. I mean, come on. Who does that? Who keeps track of how many times they actually think about something? That’s why we always use big numbers, like a thousand. Easy, hyperbolic lie. People get the point. I don’t even think I can count to thirty-seven. Thirty-eight? Whatever.

I’ve thought about Amy six hundred and ninety-two times since March.

This makes six hundred and ninety-three.

It was now or never. Casually stroll into Wawa, with the gun and the mask in my pocket. Scope out the scene, make sure no one else is in the store. Idle by the Hot Pockets freezer until the coast is clear. Duck behind the rack in the potato chip aisle, out of sight of the cashier. Slip on the mask. My beautiful, beautiful Panda mask. Pull out the gun, but don’t arm it; you don’t actually want to hurt anyone. Leap out from behind the potato chip rack, rush the cashier, shove the gun in his face, probably held horizontally like in those movies because that just looks a lot cooler, demand in your deepest, meanest panda growl that he give you all the money—because really, who’s going to say no to a panda?—take the money after he gives it to you, run outside, start the car, pull the mask off, peel out of the parking lot, drive back to J & J, buy the biggest diamond ring you can afford with the cash, drive back down Route 10 all the way to the Starbucks in Denville, ask Amy to elope and run away (use of mask and gun only if necessary), live happily ever after, fin.

There were two things I failed to consider:

Well, okay three:

1. The bathroom. I forgot to check the bathroom, or even consider that there might be someone in bathroom. I didn’t know people actually used those bathrooms, except in Clerks.

2. That the person in the bathroom would also have a gun, and that his, unlike mine, would be armed.

3. That said person in said bathroom would be a professional panda poacher and incredibly impulsive. I never realized there was a market for panda pelts either. Who would want to kill something so cute and cuddly?

But before he saw the gun, before he even knew what was happening, he saw the panda mask, and Blam! Headshot. Our professional panda poacher is now the hero of Randolph, New Jersey, I’m a lonely corpse in a panda mask, and Amy’s making a caramel macchiato for someone else, completely unaware of the sacrifice I made for her in the name of love.

God I hate New Jersey.