See “Partington Cove”

Back in 2009, Lyndsay and I took a trip out west that inspired the first song written for The Mantis and The Moon. Recently I pieced together some of the footage of our journey so that we could share with you some of the experience. I’ve also written a much more in-depth meditation on the Rabbit Room. Enjoy!

We are really excited to announce we will be heading back out West in June to share the songs from The Mantis and The Moon and the newest recording project with houses, churches and coffee shops in California, Colorado, and stops along the way.  I’ll post the tour schedule once it is ready, but if you know someone who might be interested in hosting or organizing a show, contact me at sonoflaughtermusic@gmail.com and encourage them to check out the “shows” page.

One more (belated) announcement: I am realizing that I never posted about the newest Son of Laughter single “Little Sheep” that was released on Noisetrade for free! You can also read more about that song here at The Rabbit Room.

November Poem-A-Day Challenge: Final Week

Here is a belated posting of the final collection of poems written during the last week of November. There are a few that I am fond of from this week. Day 26 gave me a reason to peek back to 2005 and try to finally figure out why I asked my wife to marry me the way that I did. The final day sums up the basic daily cycle I often found myself moving through as I took on this challenge. On the first day of November I had no idea that would take up this task, and I am glad that I did. A few new songs even came out of it. I would strongly recommend this to anyone even remotely considering writing a poem for each day. Thank you, everyone, who read these and encouraged me along the way.

Day 22

Sometimes I am amazed
at the places we get to go
in conversation.

Today I braved a cabin in the Adirondacks
with an outhouse and a Franklin stove.
A log rolled out of the fire
and almost set us all ablaze,
all while I was eating smoked turkey
in a Tennessee suburb.

This week alone I’ve been to a New York Ad Agency,
a 19th Century transcendental commune, a hollywood animation studio,
a hunting reserve across from a nuclear power plant,
and a 17th century Puritan meeting house.

Yesterday, from a cleft in the rock
of my classroom,
we traveled beyond time
and peaked at the Source of all beauty –
One who makes all
inspirations for
sonnets, symphonies, and wars
painfully dull by comparison –
and our skin lit the halls
when we walked away.

Day 23

“Rain god”

Sitting in my comfortably conditioned corner of this city
I watch the harmless rain and think about how far we have come
from the antiquated temptations of ignorant, pre-civilized men
to worship rain gods and other divinities of fertility.

Well, I can’t really blame them. It must have been extremely
vulnerable to have to barter with the moodswings of clouds to stay alive.
Think about it: How could anyone depend upon the whims of weather?

Today, my cookies are made by elves and my breakfast by a cartoon bee.
Their smiles eternally tell me that it is their good pleasure to serve.
What could ever happen to those guys? Right? Ok, I know that’s not real.

Still, today, we needed some milk, so Lyndsay was able to drive minute
down the road and pluck a gallon from a cooler. There must have been
hundreds lined up in rows, like a little faithful terracotta dairy army,
assuring they will defend our right to plenty.

Who fears famines
when we have factories?
Who needs Ba’al
when we have Wal-Mart?
Thank God for progress.

Day 24

“Never Stop Improving” *

Never Stop Improving.
Shop now for timeless appeal,
added sparkle,
glow and glisten,
strength, durability, and lasting beauty,
a soft country look
exalted by absolute elegance,
today’s hottest trends,
delicious results,
and long-life.

Never Stop Improving.
Create a room worthy of a fairy-tale princess
without sacrificing performance, style or comfort.
Cook with confidence-
big ideas, bold solutions, driven by potential-
until you are ready to serve.

Never Stop Improving.
Eliminate odors. Freshen clothes. Improve productivity.
Remove blood, tomato, wine, dirt and grass
until everything and everyone is ready
and year round comfort is reached.

*This is a “found” poem. Every word comes from lowes.com.

Day 25

Never Stop Improving: Part II

Never Stop Improving.
Today I came home
to a disembodied kitchen and dining room,
unpainted trim above the fridge,
smudgy walls waiting for a second coat,
soaking wet carpet that still looked
like a Jackson Pollock mud and baby puke party,
a dead mower, stranded out of reach of any trailer,
and glumps of feces on the flowerpots —
lava cleared from the blow-hole
of the poopcano of our congested septic system.
Never Stop Improving.

Day 26

“The Right Time”

As we peered down upon the lights
of Westminster Abbey and Big Ben
spilling across the Thames,
I reluctantly released the ring
buried in my inner jacket pocket
despite your eyes widening
as we rose to the apex of the Eye.

This became the pattern:
During the late, long walk home from the theater district,
I secretly reached for the ring
until bus routes consumed our conversation with worry.

In Bath we walked the steam haunted ruins
and I, more than once,
got down on one knee
and tied my shoe.

In King’s College chapel, the voices of the candlelit evensong choir
rose like incense, and we later walked out with fresh reverence
as if someone had gently, graciously
returned us from the sky
to the courtyard terrain.
Still, I moved us on
beneath the string lights
strung across the empty cobblestones.
Around the corner a brass band bellowed
slow Christmas carols to only us
cueing the snow to fall like wedding confetti.
I tied my shoe again,
and we walked on to the station.

I still don’t fully know why,
after our extravagant outing,
the common commute from
Cambridge back to campus
was the right time.

Maybe my joyful secret
had been kicking and contracting,
and it was simply time for delivery.

For some reason
as we jerked along the tracks
in our cold, coffee stained seats, and
as stern newspaper readers
pretended not to eavesdrop,
I planted one knee on the sticky floor
and imperfectly proposed the preposterous
on a perfectly plain commuter train
and you said, “Um… yeah…”
as if we had just taken steps
as inevitably obvious
as catching a train
headed home.

Day 27

“I Know How You Feel, Snoopy”

After Ninny, Rah-Rah, Forrest, Alex, Leighton, Stacy, Laura, Joe, Shoo, Giggy, Kendall, Josie, Lila, Alex, Megan, Brad, Emily, Hazel, August, Lyndsay, Shepard, and Sally Ann.

After the gravy soaked  dressing, squash casserole, smoked turkey leg, mashed potatoes, homemade bread, san pellegrino, red wine, apple pie, and chocolate cheesecake.

It might take twice as many people to anchor me with ropes,
because I’m feeling rather inflated and high.

Day 28

“Once”

Once I kicked with cowboy boots,
barrel rolled in mad pursuits,
Swung along vines
and grappling hook lines,
howling o’re bottomless chasms.

Once I put it all at stake.
Buildings blazed within my wake.
I could destroy
with innocent joy
and sleep the sleep of Adam.

The upright walk with the strength of the just.
The guilty falter in fogs of mistrust.
Once I fought like the Fourth of July
before I became the bad guy.

Day 29

secret kiss
secret knife
secret bliss
secret strife

secret blueberries
secret sick germs
secret fern ferries
secret glow worms

secret soldier, stealthy spy
secret sneaky, shifty eye
secret smile sucked in slightly
secret soup snack sipped up nightly

secret sombre ranks – at ease
secret sacred sanctities
secret stealer selects screwdrivers
secret signals save survivors

secret celebrity cinema stars
secret skin-scorched stigmata scars

secrets shared for seminal spectacle
secrets seen seem scintillatingly skeletal

secret sarcophagus sanskrit sign
secret snake eyes suddenly shine

secret celestial seraphim song
secret shepherds sing along

secret supple sunday steaks
secret sparkly snowglobe shake

secret shadow silhouettes
secret stolen statuettes

secret handshake
secret shopping
secret secret
secrets stopping

Day 30

“Philosophy of Poetry”

Listen

Record

Commit

Play

Fail

Wait

Steal

Quilt

Tinker

Simmer

Season

Share

Sleep

Regret

Tweak

Obsess

Forget

Repeat

November Poem-A-Day Challenge: Week III

Back in November, I remembered to post these poems on my social media feeds as I wrote them, but I neglected to keep collecting them here. Better later than never. Here are the results from Week III. Looking back, it is funny to see how clear it is which days I was really pushing it just to churn something out.

Day 15

There once was a man with the flu
who feared that he smelled like a zoo
so he took a shower
at least every hour
until he ran out of shampoo

There once was a man with the flu
who was chased by an over-sized shrew
he woke with a scream
from this mad fever dream
and hoped not to have deja vu

There once was a man with the flu
who kidnapped a kind kangaroo
but since he was ailing
the court says his bailing
is under judicial review

There once was a man with the flu
Who craved a great pot of beef stew
but since in his fridge
he found not a smidge
he settled for cheesy fondue

There once was a man with the flu
who rode in a shiny canoe
but when it caught fire
his fever grew higher
until the thermometer spewed

Day 16

“Recovery”

So many unprescribed remedies
have stirred me
from my long, dark,
shivering sleep:

The icy drizzle that prodded us
back into our own home.

The shouts of my children
fighting boredom with flashlights,
dismantled couch cushions,
and piles of rainbow rice.

The random recitations
of my wife explaining
the power of passages
of a novel on a Florida farm.

Some patients
heal with humidifiers,
but today I have preferred
our oven’s exhalations,
as varied as the wind,
cycling through
seasons of scents:
baking banana bread,
maple syrup melting into cream of wheat,
simmering garlic chicken,
rising whole wheat loaves,
bubbling beef stew,
and steaming molten brownies.

In this slow day of waking,
I have wondered how ill
I must have been before
I came down with this sickness.

Day 17

“Two Questions”

A good question:
How do I write a poem on a Monday
when I am still behind in needing
to fix the lawn mower, clean the carpets,
scrub the dishes, declutter the garage, budget our expenses,
calculate grades, grade essays, help
Lyndsay find a part time job, finish painting
the kitchen, hire an electrician for the fan, e-mail
our contacts in California, follow-up with
the lyric video animator, finish writing
all my half-written blogs, research
Christmas presents, repair the chainsaw,
pressure wash the stonewall, take Eric’s
sound equipment back to him, raise money
to get the tires changed, sell Kathaleen my
violin, contact January house shows, learn
a new Christmas song, sleep?

A better question:

When will I not have
a list of reasons not to
practice poetry?

Day 18
“Success”

When I am
surrounded by
so many millions
of aimless,
easily distracted
children of the sky,
watching one
after another,
blown off
course, witnessing
such utter lack of
collective accomplishment, such
dizzyingly beautiful failed
attempts to change
the world,

I stand in
empty-handed joy
in my own inability
to define success
for a winter cloud.

I’ll take a half-hearted
snow-that-won’t-stick
any day over
cold relentless rain.

Day 19

Behold
your married youth pastor
romancing your best friend,
your blameless brother
justly uninvited from the wedding,
your sitcom dad
caught unhumorously red-handed,
your lilywhite sunday school teacher
presiding over a witches’ sabbath,

Behold
your own secret feet
leading you to meet
the serpent staffed stranger
at a lightning licked crossroads.

Behold
the miraculous possibility
of empty hands.

Day 20

“Paying Attention”

You might be surprised to know that
I have the gift of useless prophecy.
I dream about meeting a friend at a sink.
The next day, I meet that friend at a sink.

I dream about a train whistling in the distance
while a bird lands on a car.
The next day, a train whistles in the distance
and my son throws a paper airplane at the van.

I dream about an obscure street name.
The next day a friend is listening to song
I’ve never heard
named after the same street.

I dream of that one student
up in a tree, but I can’t help
because I need to go home to my family.
The next day, the same student
asks for help on an essay
as I am packing my shoulder bag.

I am beginning to wonder
if there is any way to know
what is significant.

Though I fail to see reason
in such supernatural interventions
now I am
paying attention.

Day 21

Just a fence-hop away from some world’s fair ruins,
lives an optimistic prisoner of the present.
He is haunted by the promise of an old-fashioned future
and today seems unremarkably unpleasant.

Is the sun we set our sights on
just a counterfeit horizon
we follow to find
we’re back again?

When our beautiful tomorrow
brings the same old sorrow
will the carousel of progress
never end?

November Poem-A-Day Challenge: Week II

Here are my results from the second week of the Writer’s Digest’s PAD chapbook challenge.  Day 14 was interesting.

Day 8

Silently, she let her father
lead her between
walls of hieroglyphs,
mapping the paths to eternity,
The Book of the Dead
5,000 year old tombs
alabaster and amethyst
bodies, embalmed and eviscerated,
She paused before each sign and placard.
Her eyes bounced between the relics.

Who knows what
seismic shifts
and incremental cataclysms
move in the minds
of quiet children?

Day 9

“True Story”

An ex-hopeless case
shared with me
the seed of his miracle:
One teacher asked,
“Where is your topic sentence?”

Day 10

“No Story is Over”

No story is over.
No story is over.
The curtain closes.
The lights come on.
Now watch the crowd break
just like the dawn
into the city
to think and dream
we see the world with
all that we’ve seen.
No story is over.
No story is over.
Looking back now
it’s hard to believe
the broken histories
that interweave.
Oh to see the days
like dominos
all falling forward
tipped toward
hope.
No story is over.
No story is over.

Day 11

“I Disagree”

Pulling numbers out of thin air
Strong conclusions, he buried them
I was backing up a lot
Huh? What?
Post hoc ergo propter hoc
So far from the full reality
Very thin ice
What is the thesis?
How scary would that be if that was reality?
I disagree with the dichotomy
I was trying to establish his audience
Where does he pull that from?
Where does he pull THAT from?
What is he talking about?
This is how he starts a chapter…
You have said nothing for two complicated sentences
I thought he just made it up
It seemed like convenient math
He didn’t talk about love AT ALL!
This is in the genre of Gladwell, but not as well-written
He didn’t have as much to say about the morality of certain goods
What are you talking about?
Really?
Where were we?
I have two quick points to make…I forgot the second
And that would illustrate my point as to why I don’t like this book even more
That’s an easy point to make…now
Come on
Yes, the second point was LOST…it’s gone
Can anything be lost in the universe?
I didn’t finish the book
Does he ever say what to do with, I don’t know, the first 250 pages of it?
What does that even mean?
It’s statistically insufficient
I couldn’t take that seriously
This is what you are going to hang your hat on? Something you just made up?
I thought it was very paternalistic
It was rather arrogant
That’s what he seemed to be suggesting
It’s such a worn-out stereotype
He doesn’t make it very consistent
I was offended

Day 12

“Fisher of Men”

The serene sea
of unmoved faces
defines for the speaker
his immediate vocation.
He walks off
into a shadowed corner of the stage
stalking down the steps
confronting the front row.

Scratching the back of his neck,
contemplating his next gesture,
he explains, “They cannot hear him because he is familiar.”

He swerves to edge of the crowd
pacing up the side aisle,
casting out story after story
into rippling a wave
of shoulders adjusting
to his nearness.

Even as he passes behind them,
they stare blankly ahead,
his single-sided interrogations
skipping over rows of backs of heads.
He persists, untroubled
by the shimmering stillness of the surface;
he is calling out
to mute, unknown creatures
stirring beneath.

With a shout he raises an emphatic hand,
then glances down
as if startled by the tail
of a great white whale.

Day 13

“Nothing Too Serious”

I don my thick coat
for the icy current, while
the trees get naked.

Maybe there’s something to that old haiku
that I just made up.
Nevermind.

Wait.
Have you ever felt
your most absurd,
unfiltered ruminations
might be worth keeping?
Nope?
Me neither.

Well, my hands are clean,
which is unfortunate
because now I can’t make out
that important impromptu reminder
inked on my palm.

Probably nothing serious.

In the words of the unpitied
e.e. cummings
let’s go

Day 14

“I Love Walk-in Clinics”

I love walk-in clinics.
I love to wait for hours
upon hours
and hours.
Finally, I am still.

It breeds within me
a certain surety of identity
to have to write my name,
birthdate, telephone number,
social security number,
and insurance information
on ten different sheets of paper:
It reminds me of who I am.

All of my coughing comrades
in the common community
of the waiting room
let me know that I too
am part of earth’s neighborhood.
Our tiny germs link elbows
in celebration.
Hooray.

Finally, I get my own cell
in their labyrinthine abbey
and am blessed with
one more contemplative hour.
On the paper bed, my fever keeps me toasty.
Windowless walls beckon me
to search inwardly,
while a picturesque poster
of a sunset and a lighthouse at sea
reminds me of the true definition of “Determination”.
I am inspired.

Enter the funny doctor.
He is so funny.
“Elbow bump!” he begins.
“What?” I ask.
“I’m not touching you because you’re sick!”
he laughs.

After his nurse swabs my sinus,
in a gesture much like an ancient mummification ritual
(I feel just like an Egyptian king!),
he returns with jubilant results

and a thumbs up, “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!”
“You’re my first catch of the season!” he chortles.
“Here’s some meds so you don’t get
in the doghouse with your wife,” he teases.
“Do you remember the seven deaths from this a few years ago?
Don’t want that to happen again now do we?” he reminisces.
“The seven deaths,” he smiles again.
“A real Typhoid Mary you are,” he quips.
Such a funny doctor.

I give a satisfactory sigh and grow nostalgic
about my previous visit here –
that time when I accidentally stabbed the sole of my foot
with a pair of scissors and the red blood globbed out on the carpet
and I hobbled around for weeks.
Good times.

November Poem-A-Day Challenge: Week 1

This month I have taken on Writer’s Digest’s PAD chapbook challenge to write a poem for each day of the month of November. I am doing this a little more causally and disregarding their prompts. Here are the pieces from Week One.

Day 1

“Outdoor Wedding”

There is too much to take in.
The reverend even warns,
in Browning’s words,
it is all “crammed with heaven”.

We sit, facing the feet of the vast, wet forest.
Audience to a stage leaves, freshly fallen,
a stage in which the light technician must be perfectly drunk,
randomly illuminating, dimming,
panning across patches
of the season’s first snow crystals.

This part of the show began long before we arrived,
and will continue on after our exit.

Brad plays his banjo,
his back to this scenery,
the sounds of his chapped red fingers on steel strings
covers us all just as well
as the blankets urgently passed around.
Far behind him
stacked sticks wait to be lit,
within a circle of stones.
Beside him, small pools gather
in the corners of the groom’s grinning eyes.

During the recitation
of a piece of Wendell Berry’s
“The Country of Marriage”,
wind, from somewhere, passes through
with seeming symbolism
tossing twigs between trees,
caressing the crowd.
They both move us to draw our kids closer
though we can’t name all the reasons.

We understand it all
about as much as we understand
that fragment of poetry,
the scriptures recited on the nature of love,
the invocation of the laws of the state,
God’s covenant,
the rings.

We dimly comprehend this day
as much as our children understand
the radiant ache
behind our kisses.

Day 2

“All Saints Day”
 
Today during the “All Saints Day” service
our teacher called the Hebrew Bible
an acorn
and the New Testament
a the flourishing tree.
 
We spoke creeds
seven times older than our country,
and sang melodies
alive since 1550.

Afterwards, in a yuppie watering hole,
I sang Paul Simon lyrics,
penned three years after my birth,
about the lovely life of parents
before children.
My wife sipped a dark drink
that owes much to monks
from the 6th century.

Tomorrow, in class, we will study Emerson;
He will denounce the worship of the past
while citing Augustine, Luther, and Buddha.

Today, I watched oaks
wracked by an invisible blow
spill showers of seeds.
I stood in a saturation of acorns
guessing the history of the wind.

Day 3

“Writer’s Workshop”
 
I handed a popsicle stick
Engraved with the first sentence of a story
to each young writer.
They had no choice in their beginnings.
 
FS: My brother does this weird thing with turtles.
FS: Dad winked at me, as if we were friends.
FS: That was when I decided to become a dancer.
 
Once they were well on their way
to making sense,
I tossed out “non sequitur” sticks.
 
NS: What she does to the Honda…
NS: Herm should never have been left alone with the pizza.
NS: She opened the door and the furniture had changed.
 
Then came the “last straws” –
minuscule sources of conflict
that ultimately catalyzed their characters
into climactic resolutions.
 
LS: The way she makes her tea…
LS: How he rolled the newspaper…
LS: The perfect place for a flat tire…
 
They may not see
the microcosms occurring in class,
but I know that my day began
 
with a dream of moths flying out of my hair wherever I ran.
Later my four year old son begged to be three.
Then I had to write a poem about it all before I could sleep.

Day 4
 
“Voting Day”
 
Every day
is voting day
 
Cast a net
Cast a stone
Cast my king
Up on a throne
 
I can always say
what I’ve got to say
Every day
is voting day
 
Cast a look
Cast a spell
Cast my brother
down a desert well
 
Let love reign?
That’s a fine campaign!
Hey! Every day
is voting day
 
Cast my colors
Cast a play
Cast a cup
from a hunk of clay
 
Who’s gonna win it?
I’ll have my say
Every little minute
is a voting day

Day 5

You have no excuse.
Write a poem for each new day,
at least a haiku.

Day 6

“Rebel Yell”

This morning I read about the plagues hitting Rome in the first century.
“Little Christs” of the early Church, for love, moved in toward death
with the momentum of immortality.

In class we watched Poe’s Prospero flee “The Red Death”,
like the pagan elites of Rome.
We talked about Ebola, and I began to wonder
which direction my own family would run.

After dinner Rah-Rah and I watched Youtube videos
of the rebel yells of veteran Confederates.
He commented that it wasn’t all that scary,
but it would be bone chilling
if hundreds of them were charging you
without fear for their own lives.
 
Though on stage their cry was an antiquated novelty,
this was also a better battle
a wailing charge of masses
revolting against something
far more terrible and tyrannical
than any political party —
the Enemy of Vitality.

Rah-Rah scratched his day-old chemo port,
and told me stories of soldiers losing their heads
and freezing to death in WWII,
and victims he knew of a plane crash.
“Tough stuff,” he said. “Life’s not fair.”

Before we left, Shepard roared at us
pretending to be a monster.
Then I yelled back at him.
Then Lyndsay yelled at me.
And I yelled at her.
And Sally yelled at me.
And the kids jumped on our backs.
And we ran around the couch
Yelling.

Day 7
 
An unrelated series of short poems:
I.

In the empty theater
the faux stained glass
colored on an opaque poster board
stapled to brick-mimicking
painted plywood
increasingly disturbed me.

 
What if I think
I am something
I am not?
Is it that easy
to look illuminated?

 

II.

Haiku

 
Stadium lights shout
against the deafening dark.
Children shout for joy.
 

III.

Cinquain

 

You know
you have a real
problem when practicing
imaginary discourse with
Facebook.
 

IV.

 

If my writing habits
are any indicator
of life habits,
then I will produce prolifically
as I perceive
the Deadline.

News from Under the Radar

escape_to_the_lake_logo-2

Shortly after the radio program Under the Radar featured “The Fiddler” in its listener request program, they invited me to play at their yearly music retreat festival Escape to the Lake.

If you are looking for a relaxing and meaningful getaway this summer with live music, campfires, sailing, fishing, hiking, fireworks, game shows, songwriting Q and A sessions, good food, a family orient camping experience, crafts, and CHILD CARE, here is your chance! The retreat will take place July 2-5 at Conference Point Center, in Williams Bay, WI. Registration begins February 20.

The artist lineup currently includes Sara Groves, Burlap to Cashmere, Waterdeep, Eric Peters, Nick Flora, Justin McRoberts, Jason Gray, Andrew Greer, Adam Whipple, Matthew Clark and Son of Laughter!

News from The Rabbit Room

Rabbit Room

The Rabbit Room has invited me, along with a whole new wave of artists and writers, to become an official contributor to their online community. You can read about “The New Class” of Rabbit Room writers here.

The Rabbit Room is meant to be the digital, mostly-American cousin of the room in the back of the Eagle and Child pub where the Inklings, a literary discussion group led by writers such as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams, would meet to share their works in progress. While I can’t think of too many times the website has been used as a place to read unfinished works, it has, like the original Rabbit Room, become a place for connecting independent artists and inspiring discussions exploring “the intersection of art and faith”. I have followed it since its beginnings, and it has been a regular source of spiritual and creative inspiration for me for at least seven years.

This past fall I had the opportunity to be a guest at Hutchmoot, the yearly gathering in Nashville, for an invaluable long weekend of delectable feasting, literature discussions, singing, life affirming lectures on our creative vocations, author readings (Leif Enger!), Shakespearean Star Wars re-enactments, communal art projects, improvised song writing, and refreshing conversations. I can’t think of any other website that has affected me so personally, and I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to step up my own involvement there.