Tag Archives: music

Free Kindle Book–A Reminder and a Note

I’m posting this for those who might have missed it yesterday.  The Kindle version of my new book of poetry (which contains the five poems included in my first book, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, along with many others), A Rough Deliverance: Collected Poems 1983-2013, is FREE on Amazon through this Sunday (11/24/13). The link is below.  I’m hoping to get some reviews on the Amazon page and elsewhere by doing this; it really makes a big difference.  After Sunday the price of the Kindle version will go back up to $3.99.  The print version will be available within the next few days (and will be eligible for the new “MatchBook” program, through which someone who buys the print version can also get the Kindle version for a substantially discounted price–in this case, 99 cents).

For those who already downloaded the book early yesterday, when the promotion started, I wanted to let you know that I made some late changes to the text a little later in the day–I changed the Preface, and added a list of the poems at the beginning to make them easier to find within the book.  If those things matter to you, you may want to re-download the book.

OK–no more changes any time soon!  Here’s the link:


A Rough Deliverance (Kindle version) Now Free on Amazon

I could swear that I posted this last night (maybe things are catching up to me after all!), but it’s not here now.  So, again, the Kindle version of my new book, A Rough Deliverance: Collected Poems 1983-2013, is now free (its usual price is $2.99), and will be through this Sunday, 11/24.  I’d love to have as many people as possible read it now that I’ve finally put it together.  If you do pick it up, it would be especially helpful if you would leave a review on its Amazon page (or anywhere else, really!).

For something of a preview, you can read a few of the poems in some of my recent posts here. The poems are about things like love, music, AIDS (and losing someone I loved to it), travel, God, suicide, alcoholism, chance encounters, sex, ambition, hope, and many other things–I’ve had a lot to think, and write, about in the past thirty years.

Here’s the link again.  I hope that I’m not dreaming that I’m posting this one too!


Goodness, Love, Music

Two more from Love In the Broken-Bird World:


Go on goodness until it’s not good enough.

Then find love.


Nothing created.

Great mystery;

immeasurable music.


Something Different: Prose Poetry

I haven’t really written poetry in many years, but lately I’ve come crawling back.  It’s felt strange, like clumsily re-learning as an adult how to do something that came very naturally in childhood. (In the same spirit, I’ve been listening lately to the music that moved me so much when I was younger, and yet that I’d somehow almost forgotten about; this morning it was Hot Tuna’s “The Water Song”, which I used to play first thing on sunny mornings when I was at college.  OK–there weren’t ALL that many sunny mornings in Portland, but there were some. I’ve been wishing lately that I were a musician, so that I could put my words to music.)

As I was “messing around” with lines (of poetry) lately, I found that I was spending far too much time and effort trying to decide where the line-breaks should come.  I guess I’ve always found them a little annoying and somewhat beside the point, unless I was writing my sonnets or something.  Anyway, a day or two ago I decided to say to hell with them, and see if what I’ve been writing works as something along the lines of prose poetry.  So far, I’m happy with the results.

I just finished this–the third in the series of which the poems I posted a couple of posts ago are also a part:



Fires along the walls.  Lost light caught in corners, starved dogs summoned, sweat and smoke in little yards.  Moon begins her wayward fall.

Fingers practice the anatomy of stone. You drink, you dance, you spill your wine on dust that soaks up time.  You like to sing the sparks that flicker in the gorgeous mind, in the heart always dismissive of stolid, arid tunes.

Ruptured stars: down here it’s night.  Sleeping hills are turning now to space where nothing matters, your finger sliding warm and welcome down my arm.

Swallow sweeping twin-tailed to a secret room to dive, my dress a bloom. There is a bead of love between each wave, a peace that rights the murder, the only sense we ever made.


(P.S. re: my previous post–apparently marketing isn’t my forte. Fortunately for me, that comes as no surprise. In any case, the Giveaway of the print version of Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, is still open until tomorrow–David’s birthday.  As no one has entered so far, anyone who does has a pretty good chance of winning.  🙂  Here’s the link to the book’s Amazon page, just in case:


The Dead’s “Unbroken Chain”: Love, Hypocrisy, Nostalgia, and the Road

I don’t remember when “Unbroken Chain” became my favorite Grateful Dead song, but I think it must have been during my period of renewed grief, which started in 2006 when I started to think once again about writing David’s book, and during which I spent every night drinking, smoking, crying, and listening to songs that reminded me of him on my iPod. I was, to use one of my favorite expressions, a train-wreck.

I guess I love haunting songs, and “Unbroken Chain” certainly fits that description.  And there are parts of it that particularly remind of my time with David, and of that time in general. I love the line, “They say, ‘Love your brother,’/but you will catch it when you try,” and the lines that lead up to, “…Unbroken chain/of you and me” (I know now that the chain was, in fact, never broken).  And the long instrumental part (what would a Dead song be without a long instrumental part?) always, for some reason, brings to my mind images of a much younger David, on the road (as I almost always tended to imagine him), running between New Mexico, Kansas, Minnesota, Mexico, New York, and wherever else fate or his yearnings took him before he got sick, his arm out the car window, playing with the wind. It may be an overly romantic image, suffused with nostalgia for times, places, and parts of David’s life I was never a part of, but that’s me. The Dead were just kind enough to come up with a soundtrack for it.

Here’s the song:


“Paint It, Black” : The Anger Part of Grief

Every so often I’ll hear a song somewhere and wonder why I didn’t include it on my playlist for Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days.  The Stones’ “Paint It, Black” is one of those songs.

In many reviews of the book, people write about the sadness of the story; quite a few say that it made them cry.  And of course David’s passing filled me with a sorrow for which it seemed there would never be any remedy–a sorrow that came back to me, full-force, sixteen years later when I started once again to try to write his book.

But the book also describes my anger–anger at the loss, anger that people’s lives seemed to go on as if nothing had happened when I lost David, anger at AIDS and the attitudes about it, anger that a man I’d been seeing around the time I met David had the nerve to want to spend time with me again, and even, sometimes, an irrational anger at David himself.  And the anger returned all those years later, when my bout of “disenfranchised grief” began.

This is an excerpt from the book in which I describe the anger I felt shortly after David’s death:

“I wrote something in my blog about trying to get back to my old life: …returning for the first time after David’s death to one of the bars I used to spend a lot of time in before I met him, sitting alone on a barstool under the blue lights in the early evening as the band was setting up, feeling, for the first time, anger instead of grief, or as a different manifestation of grief. Old friends tried to talk to me, but I could barely speak; they had become intrusions, and I hated them for it. I hated the lights, I hated the music, and I hated anyone or anything who wasn’t David, or a means of bringing him back, and I went home early.”

“Paint It, Black” is such an obvious “soundtrack” to those feelings that I’m really surprised that I never thought to include it in my playlist.  Consider it included now. (Generally when I provide links to YouTube versions of songs I try to use the ones not preceded by ads, but this is a wonderful version of the song–a live version by a group of little boys who call themselves the Rolling Stones.)


Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days is available on Amazon.com here:


Hoboken, and the Feelies

I moved to Hoboken from Manhattan in 1987 with my best friend from college, Lynn; she had gone over to the town one night with some other friends and seen a band at Maxwell’s, and her single evening there had convinced her that it was imperative that we move there as soon as possible (she also told me about a bar across Washington Street from Maxwell’s where draft beers cost 35 cents, and that struck both of us as another perfectly good reason to live there).

At that time, Hoboken was a relatively inexpensive alternative to Manhattan; it hadn’t quite been gentrified yet, and it seemed that almost everyone who lived there (aside from the mostly-Italian “old-timers”) was an artist or musician of some sort, and under the age of 30.  I loved it (and still do, and I felt terrible about what happened to it, and the people there, when Sandy blew through).  In Holding Breath, I included an entry from my 1988 journal about “…my apparent moderate, and inexplicable, notoriety in this weird town full of people who refuse to ever grow up.  I do love Hoboken, and I plan to for a while.”  (In retrospect, it was no great feat to have any kind of “notoriety” in a mile-square town.)

I spent almost every night out at Maxwells, and various other bars around town (for a while I tended bar at a place that was, at the time, called the Beat ‘n’ Path, and had much too much fun doing it). Maxwell’s was always my favorite place; they had (and still do) a little room in the back where great indie bands came to play.  It was cheap to get in, and very often I’d get in for free because I had friends who worked the door–a good thing, because I was always broke back then.  As far as I was concerned, it was, and still is, the best place to see live shows.

At the time, my absolute favorite band was the Feelies.  They’re a New Jersey band from Haledon, but I always kind of thought of them as a Hoboken band.  I saw them every time they (or one of their various permutations) played Maxwell’s.  During the day, as I made my way through Manhattan on my way to visit clients in the hospital or in their homes, or to see David, their music was often playing on my Walkman.  It’s hard to think about that time in my life without thinking about the Feelies, and that’s why I’ve included the following song, “On the Roof,” on my playlist for the book:


Dancing Barefoot

I think I kind of fell in love with Patti Smith during my freshman year at Reed College.  I listened to her album Horses over and over; it was a revelation to me–an 18-year-old poet newly on her own, trying to find the things that felt right to her (that process became considerably easier once I got to Reed).  Patti felt right.  I had an oversized man’s blazer-type jacket (which I often wore over my long hippie dresses, or with a big button-down white shirt) on which I pinned a little horse–just like Patti on Mapplethorpe’s cover for the album.  I was a little obsessed, but hey–I was 18.  I still love Patti.

I included her song “Dancing Barefoot” on my playlist for Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, because something in the song’s lyrics reminds me of my regrets about my days with David, and of something I learned from those regrets, years later.

In spite of the fact that I risked my job by more-or-less moving into David’s little Lower East Side apartment with him and trying to care for him until his death eight months later, there were things that I held back–things that I wish I’d done, but didn’t (the kiss that he offered, and that I refused early on in our relationship, is like a “ground zero” for the memoir, and for my own memories).  Yes–he had full-blown AIDS, and people will argue that that was reason enough not to kiss him, but I don’t think it was MY reason (I also knew that I wasn’t going to get HIV through a kiss).  I was just confused, and holding back because of that constant, nagging feeling that I was doing something wrong by being there with him at all.  I will always wish that I had, at the very least, accepted his kiss.  That “holding back” continued in many other ways during those eight months.  These days–in large part because of my realization of what was lost as a result of my fear of “doing the ‘wrong’ thing”–I am somewhat braver, and less beholden to some idea of what people might think (although I’m still a work-in-progress in that regard as well).

As far as I can tell, the song “Dancing Barefoot” is about that blessed letting-go, and that willingness to go with what one feels in her heart, rather than slavishly following “conventional wisdom”, dogma, random “rules” set by people who simply have different ideas about things, prejudices (my own subtle and barely acknowledged ideas about “addicts” at the time played into my dealings with David as well–at least at first).

It’s a truly beautiful song.  Here it is:


(Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days is available at:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009TV4CE6)


As Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From the Storm” is on the book’s playlist, and as it’s so in keeping with recent events up north, I was going to post a link to it here today.  However, I’m not able to find a link to a Dylan version of the song (I’m guessing it’s a copyright thing).  The song–particularly its opening lines–is one of quite a few that remind me of my time with David, particularly the first few weeks after we met, and also just in general of the AIDS epidemic at the time in New York:

“Twas in another lifetime/One of toil and blood,/When blackness was a virtue/The road was full of mud./I came in from the wilderness,/A creature void of form./’Come in,’ she said, ‘I’ll give you/Shelter from the storm…/In a world of steel-eyed death and men who are fighting to be warm/’Come in,’ she said,’I’ll give you/Shelter from the storm…”

As his caseworker, it was my job to find David, who was homeless at the time, a place to live.  What I didn’t know on that day when he first walked into my office– strung-out, wet, feverish, and just about at the end of his rope, I think–was that I would be sharing that shelter with him until the day he died, eight months later.

1989 does seem like another lifetime now.

(Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days can be found on Amazon.com at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009TV4CE6.)

My Intolerance for Intolerance

These days, I live in northern Florida; I live on the beach, and it’s beautiful, but (as I mention in my Author’s Bio. for the book, and on my “About” page here), I dream pretty much every single night about being back in New York City.  Maybe one day I’ll move back.

Northern Florida is–to my surprise, really, as I’d always thought of the town I currently live in as kind of a happily eccentric hippie haven until I actually moved here permanently–a bastion of the far Right and Christianity in its most conservative (and, in my mind, intolerant) form.  I’m so far to the left that I’m on the brink of falling off the map (something which was usually not much of an issue at all “up North”), so I often feel a bit disoriented when I’m out and around here.

I don’t ascribe to any one spiritual path, but if I were forced to describe myself I guess I’d have to say that I come closest to being a Buddhist with a firm belief in God (although I understand God in very different terms than God is often portrayed in the Abrahamic religions).  Because of that, I’m trying to learn equanimity, and non-judgement, and unconditional compassion.

But every so often something I see or hear down here (not that I never experienced similar things up North; it was just either less often or not as blatant) that is a serious challenge to the abovementioned three goals.  Two of the worst (as you might suspect, if you’ve read or know anything about the subject of my memoir, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days) have had to do with AIDS.

The first was a bumper-sticker.  Down here, I see a lot of them that simply annoy or disturb me, but I’ve become somewhat used to them.  One day, however, I was driving behind one of the big-ass trucks that so many people down here like to own, and I saw, much to my surprise, a red AIDS-ribbon bumper-sticker. I hadn’t seen one of those in a LONG time, and certainly didn’t expect to see one in Jacksonville.  For a minute, it made me happy.  Coming up a little closer behind the truck, however, I saw that someone–either the truck’s owner, as a joke, or someone else who’d seen the sticker–had shot at it multiple times with what I assume was a BB gun or something.  I was sickened.

The other incident–excuse the expression, but there’s no better one–pissed me off more than just about anything has in a very long time. I was driving, and listening to the radio–one of the not-so-great rock ‘n’ roll stations down here.  One of those snarky, frat-boy-type announcers that are, I suppose, considered “funny” to some came on to make a “joke” that had something to do with encouraging I.V. drug users to shoot more drugs so that more of them would get infected with HIV.  The people at that station would have been pretty taken aback at the profanity that I unleased upon them at that moment.  That was last year, and–even with the dearth of decent music to listen to down here when I’m driving–that was the last time I ever listened to that damned station.

So far, my own capacity for tolerance goes only so far.

(Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days can be found on Amazon.com at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009TV4CE6.)

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