There are at least three “me”s,
And they each do as they please,
Taking turns making decisions for the whole.
One is worried sick,
One is calm and slick,
One addicted to appearance of control.
But they rarely meet.
Usually two are fast asleep,
While the third takes the steering wheel a while.
That this triumvirate
Hasn’t killed me as of yet
Is enough to make you scream
(Or maybe smile)
(photo by Casey McMurray)
These streets are so familiar and so odd.
But then again, everything is, I guess.
Why talk about the afterlife? Or God?
When, in all honesty, I must confess:
I really haven’t got the slightest clue
What any of this is, or who I am.
What is a blue bottle? Or even…blue?
And from this basis, who am I to plan?
Or feelings in my body, what are those?
So commonplace, I barely know they’re there.
Or sounds, or sights, or smells? What is a nose?
Or fingernails, or skin, or eyes, or hair?
Even this sidewalk, which I know so well
May be the moon, as far as I can tell.
The morning grey, the rooves all slick with rain,
The gutters improvising fountain sounds,
The church-bell chiming time, and once again:
The smell of chicory and coffee grounds.
The people here wake to the fantasy
Of pastel houses, brass bands, booze, and food,
And ever present, recent memory
Of drowning, while the world watched on the news.
Another rainy day in New Orleans—
The city always almost washed away
By river, rain, and ocean, and by dreams
Too many times deferred, ignored, delayed.
For better or for worse, these people stay,
And store up soul to meet these rainy days.
My home beyond the home where I was born
Is not a place to which I can return.
My shoes, from trying, though, are old and worn
From roads I’ve walked, and bridges long since burned.
When I look down, it gives me vertigo
To survey all the distances I’ve climbed,
Believing there’s somewhere I’ve got to go—
Some place other than here, some other time.
The paradox is that this home I seek
Is everywhere I go (nowhere at all).
Its silence is beneath each word I speak,
Its vastness dwarfs my most imposing walls.
In moments when I cease to long and strive,
My home is here, I finally arrive.
…And take my waking slow.
From the gates of dream’s magic kingdom into the
The dream of memory.
The dream of fantasy.
The dream of history.
Like some snake-necked bird taking flight over a marsh
With harsh and exciting contact
Beating the air like a hose beats the sidewalk
The night is washed away
Fluid and chaotic and all unintentional
All at once
But precise in its way
Impressions of this city
Sucked into the eyes like air
Into the lungs
Like the words your parents said
Before you knew what they meant,
Messages mixed up always
With their opposite.
Made easier by the shared, endearing madnesses
Like a glimpse of the boat
That might deliver you
Finally, into the most restful
And enduring of visions.
To sleep, perchance to dream.
For in that sleep of life what dreams may come
When we have uncoiled within our own mortality
Must give us pause.
Back home. Here I am on the patio at PJ’s
Where I spent my teenage days
And parts of my twenties
Of iced mochas got imbibed.
While I extended my tribe,
Picked up habits, good and bad.
Went out at night and drank the best sounds
I’ve ever had—
Rebirth Brass Band,
George Porter Junior,
And on and on.
With the sweetest group of soulful friends
Dancing all around me
Dancing through the haze of
Smoky, vague New Orleans boundaries.
So here I am, home again,
Old familiar zone again,
Checkin’ in with old friends,
Seeing how they’ve grown again.
Who they’ve become.
See, the one
Thing I count on is
Year after year
Aside from the obvious things like Po boys and beer
Is that everything
Becomes more itself with time.
But a riper, fuller version,
Like fruit on a vine
painfully, blissfully aware
That this decades long affair
With these memories,
With this life
Is so brief and fleeting
And balanced on a knife
And so sweet
I’ve chased down enough tragedies
With ineffective strategies
That I’ll be the first to admit:
I can’t make sense of it.
I don’t know why I was born here
Or why I had to leave
Or why I’m back here now
Or where this path I’m walking leads.
But this much is clear:
And I don’t know that I know
Of any place I’d rather be
Than right here on this patio.
©2014 Jeff Thompson Music