round lake/

©2021 Michael Raven

pushing through with
twigs gathering
broken in hair
loam & woodrot perfume
birdsong trails &
sitar locust drone with
frog croak serenade
to walk to the place
where the wolf wine's
heady draught awaits

Reflections on Winter

I’m being pulled hard towards the New Model Army album from 2016, Winter this past week or so. It’s strange, really, as I have always appreciated NMA, but wouldn’t be what you would call a rabid fan by any stretch of the imagination — I’m more of a casual listener, not even a fan. I couldn’t tell you one song from the next, or which album had what songs that I liked. Background music when I felt I needed to have some new sounds in my head.

I was looking for something different to listen to last week than what I normally listen to and recalled thinking Winter was a decent collection of songs when I listened to the album the first time about a year ago.

And now: I have the title track stuck in my head, and a few others worming their way into me ear.

I don’t know that I can explain. It’s a bit like the need to explore a tarot deck closer at the end of last year; I can’t articulate the attraction other than the album feels right for the moment, seems to grasp the wraithlike tendrils of whatever it is that my subconscious is driving towards without bothering to tell the lumbering lorry what the destination is that will be eclipsed. The very same otherworldly feel.

Yes, I know sometimes I come off as a bit of a crackpot who might benefit from a good dose of mood-altering prescription better-living-through-chemistry solutions to my mental stuff. I’m okay with it, although I wish I was more privy to the purpose, even if most people out there have always been a little disturbed by my approaches. Much of the weirdness, I am certain, still is an evolution even a year after giving up some of the drugs doctors thought would help me with persistent low-grade depression — I’m still rediscovering some of who I am after years of having had that part of my head stifled, walled in, closed off. I still revel in being able to write more consistently and frequently after years of authorized medication and even more years of alcoholic self-medication. Being depressed is a small price to pay to be able to write and to feel and think mostly straight again instead of walking though a fog of “meh”.

So it is nice to have something resonate so well. Take, for instance, the first verse to Echo November:

And everything laid before us now, nothing to conceal
I'm going back to the Nature Gods, the only thing that's real
And yes I heard the voices raised, I heard all the words you were saying
It sounds just like everything sounds, the sound of something praying

It’s the second line of that verse that grabs me: “I’m going back to the Nature Gods, the only thing that’s real”.

I guess that says most of it for me. Except that it’s not your Llewellyn mass paperback nature gods with candles and athames and incense — there is blood and viscera, pain and self-sacrifice as well as all those nice, fluffy, Disney-fied things that people prefer to focus on when they speak of their spiritualism. No — I’m not talking literally. I speak figuratively, although there is more to it than even that simple dichotomy. As I’ve said in the past, words are inadequate to express certain things — certain things are experienced, then known, and cannot be put into words:

The eternal Tao can never be completely described with spoken words or defined with written words. You cannot rely on words to understand it. You have to live it… and feel it.

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 1, as paraphrased by Derek Lin

Neither here, nor there — just some context for my thinking and possible explanation for the attraction. Lots of visionary imagery in some of the lyrics and, delving into the biographies of the band members over the past hour, it is quite apparent that we have some similar worldviews, even if there is not necessarily a direct mirroring of those views. So I guess it shouldn’t be all that much of a mystery as to why I’m being drawn into this album.

And yet, why now?

Was it the medication that made me say meh to so much of the life I was experiencing when I first heard it? Maybe. Or maybe it is just the moment that I need to finally really hear this album for reasons I am never meant to understand. And it might be a passing thing, but I can tell you the album is starting to sound like it is on Top 40 levels of high rotation in my listening.

The album itself is probably to sparse and driving for most people. It’s pretty stark and not full of fancy frippery. It’s not pretty. If it was a archetype, it’d be that battle-hardened drengr, weary from battles in the snowdrifts, ready to find her way home.

Into the mists.

©2021 Michael Raven

Normal caveats apply here:

Published with minimal edits and revision. 
Totally draft (and, likely, daft). I'm unapologetic about that.
May contain errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, logic.
This is more an exploration than finished piece.
A "study" of approximately 1000 words.

These are the foglands, the mistlands, he thought, walking towards diffuse lights that might be towns, wraiths, will-o-wisps or swamp gas. There was no purpose to the thought. It rose like that swamp gas, formed a bubble of thought and burst, and nothing remained of the thought after it flashed though his brain, escaping to the ether. He wearied, and it took too much to think much of anything more than putting one foot in front of the other and focusing on forward momentum deeper, so very much deeper into the turgid wetness of the moor, the roughshod earth, the shadows and shapes moving in the eternal twilight.

It was this or… death. And he wasn’t ready to die yet — or so he told himself when he still had the energy, the capacity to think.

The hunters pursued still. He’d not heard the wolves for a long time. How long? Oh, time had no meaning in these lands. No sun, no moon. But it had been a while, if one could divine time from forgotten heartbeats pounding in his chest. But not long enough. The old man, the Fisher King, they called him with chuckles and laughter, in that shithole town at the edge of the mists.

It was obvious inbreeding had gone on in that town named Daylight, which would have been a laughable name for that mire-clotted and rotting collection of shanties. It may have been named thus because it was the last sign of day (or the first) one saw in the mists. Had to be. But there were signs that the town needed new stock, but couldn’t be bothered to inject new blood — the sloping foreheads, slow wit and frog-like features were all he needed to know that place had grown decadent with the infrequent contact with the larger world. They knew little, but the Fisher King, a man not from their little cesspool, but an immigrant from the mists, he knew, they said, and they chuckled behind filthy hands as they said his name, though it wasn’t clear why.

Lan had expected the man to have crowned himself, wear battered robes, or something to give himself the appearance of royalty. Instead, he encountered a half-mad man, bare-chested and wearing the rags of a makeshift loincloth hobbling along the thickening perimeter of the moving shades and suggestions of shape cloaked in white just beyond his cabin. He carried a feather-tipped lance and lowered it upon Lan’s approach, but quickly raised it upon recognizing a fellow human.

“You’re hunted,” he said, inflectionless and dead.

“Yes.”

The Fisher King tilted the lance towards the swirling clouds floating over the moors. “That’s your sanctuary,” he said without emotion, “Though you might wish you’d let the wolves bring you to ground before you find the succor you seek.”

“I have no choice. I made a promise…”

“What? To live? Break that oath, let the wolves have you. You’ll thank me as they rip out your throat.”

“I may, at that. But I’m no oath breaker. Tell me — what can I expect?”

The Fisher King considered, eyes drifting to the fog and then the ground by his bare, muddied feet.

“Madness.”

“And?”

“And? And you’ll walk until your legs give out, and then you crawl until you knees give way, and then you’ll claw with fingers bloody from scrabbling at stone as you pull yourself ever further into Her lands. And… If you’re very lucky, She will find you before you turn to a corpse, then bone, then ash. If she doesn’t want to find you, you will not find her.”

“How far?”

The Fisher King grunted and turned away.

“How far, dammit — my time runs short and I need to know how far before the wol–“

“As far as you need to, dammit!” Fire burned in the Fisher King’s eyes now, a suppressed anger rising molten to the surface. “And it will still not be enough! Did you not hear me? If She doesn’t want to find you, you… will… not… find… Her… Give yourselves to the wolves, boy. You’ll thank me as you breathe your last.”

Lan sighed. “Which way. then?”

The Fisher King mirrored the sigh and calmed, stony once again. He waved his hand in the general direction of the mists. “Take your pick. All paths lead to Her. If she wants. Walk until the wolves howl no more, then walk more, and when you cannot wal–“

“I know,” interrupted Lan. “Knees, then fingers, then waiting for Her to decide to find me. If She wants to find me.”

“That sums it up, yes.”

“And I’ll know I am close when I can no longer hear my pursuers?”

“You’ll know nothing of the sort. But you’ll be closer than the wolves, and they will not hunt you if they’ve lost your scent, and that’s all that matters.”

“Thank you,” Lon said, though he’d not learned as much as he’d hoped and didn’t think it would be useful.

“Don’t thank me,” Fisher King said and returned to his patrols of the mists outside his home.

And now, Lan felt gravity pulling him to his knees these aeons later and he decided it was time to surrender and so he fell, though not as gracefully as he’d intended upon making that decision. He realized, then, that the Fisher King had been right. Lan would be forced to crawl and he wasn’t sure he could do even that much, so he kneeled there for a spell, considering if he should lay down, knowing he’d not rise again if he did.

Instead he listened for the wolves as he had for as long as he could recall. When had he last heard them? How many heartbeats? How many breaths ago?

He closed his eyes, just to rest them, mind you. When he opened them once more his face was against the broken granite carpet, the mists forming tendrils and snatching at his jerkin, his trousers, his… it didn’t matter. He didn’t care.

Then — a boot-clad foot.

“Well, what have we here?” She asked, towering above him.

Lan smiled and let his eyes close. She had found him he thought. And if it wasn’t Her… well… he didn’t care anymore. He fell back to sleep.

The woman leaned over, picked him up effortlessly and carried him away from the place she’d found him. There were wolves about. She’d heard them on the mists. They were hunting, quite possibly hunting the man in her arms.

Audiotic Ideas

(and potentially stupid ones as well).

A couple of things I’m considering for the blog…

  • Doing spoken-word audio for select poems and microfiction
  • 30-second music in 30 minutes or “Song of the Day” (which is an idea stolen from TMBG, who had a phone line you could call and hear a new song every day by the boys)

The former is to explore some of the writing as performance elements I embraced in high school and a subsequent poetry night I emceed back in the mid-90s. Not to slam, or get too performance-y, but to aid folks who have vision issues and to give a slightly different flavor to some of the pieces here. Sometimes spoken inflections can change the entire feel of a piece and, though I am loath to foist my voice on people, I like the idea of expanding the experience on some pieces.

The other idea — a song written in a highly compressed amount of time, or a ditty of the day is more to challenge myself than anything. Not get sucked into production or individual notes, but be forced to hurry through something in the hopes that the intuitive creative process creates something more interesting than the methodical creative process.

I’m interested on your opinions about this. Post them below.

Dazzle//Siouxsie and the Banshees

One of my favorite pairs of lines of lyrics or poetry ever is:

Skating bullets on angel dust/In a dead sea of fluid mercury.

I’ll readily admit that it’s probably not the best poetry ever, but those two lines have resonated with me from the very moment I heard them around 1985. I hadn’t quite gotten around to collecting Siouxsie and the Banshee albums yet when the album was released in 1984, although I was very familiar with the name of the band by then and had heard their rendition of Helter Skelter [“You may be a lover/but you ain’t no fucking dancer”], Love in a Void and almost certainly Christine [“The Strawberry Girl”]. I was on my mission to collect Cure-related music at the time and Robert Smith was the guitarist and keyboardist for Siouxsie as the Cure had gone on hiatus after the Pornography dissolution.

At the time, I don’t think I appreciated Hyæna as much as I might have. Rumor had it that Siouxsie wouldn’t let Robert sing at all on the album “because he was an awful singer”, and that rumor turned me off a little (mostly because I’m a worse singer and at the time thought us awful vocalists should be given a chance). I think it was a good decision, now that I’m older. I loved Dazzle, Bring Me the Head (Of the Preacher Man), Dear Prudence, and a few other tracks, but it took a while for the album as a whole to grow on me — mostly because I was looking for something different at the time. But I had an instant and terrible crush on Siouxsie based on the liner photo I found as I opened the album for the first time:

The liner sleeve in my copy of the vinyl album had gotten sliced open after the first few times sliding the record in and out (as they were prone to doing at the time). I had a few spare sleeves to keep the album itself in and I posted the sleeve side with the above picture on my teenage bedroom wall as a poster, supplanting a poster I had of… well… I don’t know that I want to admit which famous woman had previously held my amorous attentions (unless — it might have been Pat Benetar, so that’s okay; the other… well, potentially embarrassing although I’d admitted her in the past).

That picture of Siouxsie is still perhaps my favorite. And, no, I’ve never gotten over my crush on her, even 35 years later. I happen to not only like her looks (now and in the past), but part of the attraction is that she is one tough chick when you find out all the bullshit she had to put up with over the years, and that’s damn attractive to me as well. She didn’t let anyone try to railroad her into anything. She was tough as nails and unapologetic about it. That earns major respect from me.

Anyway, no one cares about who a 50 yo guy has a crush on, so here is the surrounding lyrics and a link to the video for the song.

A silver tongue for the chosen one
Heavy magnum in your side
or a bloody thorn

Skating bullets on angel dust
In a dead sea of fluid mercury