T for Tom

Push

Posted in poem by johnsontoms on August 30, 2011

From my head to my arms to my joints to my hands

It’s one with the body and one with the land.

With eyes so close and near to the ground

I’m seeing things differently as if to be found.

But when my mind is tired and can wander no more

It waits by idly because I’m stuck to the floor.

Soon the pain grows until it won’t even hurt,

I’ll just stay here and wait to here “As you were.”

In Formation

Posted in poem by johnsontoms on August 30, 2011

The sun hangs low at the end of the day

And my thoughts are all I have as time passes away

To things I’ve down and places I’ve seen

While I’m stuck in one place and can’t move my feet.

But the trees have branches and the branches have leaves

And it’s their gift to put shade over me

As seconds turn to minutes turn to visions and dreams

Because I think I’ll be here forever,

or so it seems.

What the Fuck?

Posted in poem by johnsontoms on August 30, 2011

For Private R. Landes

I loved her

so I did it.

I loved her

so we did it.

We were making love

so we didn’t think

That making love

would be the end

Of the life we had

so I did it.

I joined the Army

and she’s far away

But close in my thoughts

and dreams each day

And when it’s over

we’ll make love again

As we once did

before I did it,

I went and joined the Army.

What the fuck?

Reading List

Posted in Uncategorized by johnsontoms on August 30, 2011

I’ve been reading a lot. Like, I’ve read each of these since the start of May, four months.  I could write a synopsis of each, but the titles are pretty familiar.  I recommend all of them, no order.  Actually, start with Lolita.  Then carry on down the line.

Factotum by Charles Bukowski

Women by Charles Bukowski

Naked Lunch by William Burroughs

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Coltrane on Coltrane – The John Coltrane Interviews

Sold as a Slave by Eloudah Equino

The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner

Collected Poems by Robert Frost

Groundwork on the Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant

The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

Why Are We In Vietnam? by Norman Mailer

Spooky Art – Thoughts on Writing by Norman Mailer

The Big Empty – Dialogues on Sex, Politics, War, God, and Boxing by Norman Mailer

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert S. Pirsig

Can-Cans, Cats, and Cities of Ash by Mark Twain

The Barracks Thieves by Thomas Wolffe

2011 Music Review

Posted in Uncategorized by johnsontoms on August 29, 2011

I’m not doing too bad in life if I’ve been able to afford a few records from this year.  Here’s a few thoughts on the few I’ve gotten hold of.

1. Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues”

Fleet Foxes follow up the hype from their groundbreaking debut self-titled album by delivering “Helplessness Blues”, a refreshing, breath-taking romantic folk-journey replete with a covering sense of awe and reality.  Focusing more on the melodics of guitar harmonies, Helplessness is often both vast and concise, sweeping from tunes that break your heart to rhythms that shake your feet, all while written around the cause of the human condition – making altogether an unforgettable album, for its music, for its purpose, and for its ability to make us feel great about being alive.  “Helplessness Blues”, the title track, is by far one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard; written about the loss of purpose in the common world, it’s a guide for finding a place in this coincidental existence, as simple a life as “If I had an orchard/I’d work ’til I’m sore/and you’d wait the tables/ and soon run the store.” If only we could all find peace in hard work, and living together we’d never need another day or another life.

2. Bon Iver – “Bon Iver”

I bet you didn’t think Bon Iver could do better than “For Emma… Long Ago”, because neither did I.  In fact though, he has.  Returning with simple arrangements and low vocals, Bon Iver does what “For Emma” couldn’t – make you feel good.  A complete 180 degree from the debut album, “Bon Iver” is full of sweet melodies that make you feel good about love.  That’s an indictment that makes his wonderful, for longer than an emotion.  This time maybe for a lifetime of enjoyment.  I love this record.

3. Elbow – “Build a Rocket, Boys!”

After finally making headway into the mainstream British scene with 2009’s award-winning “The Seldom Seen Kid”, Elbow for the first time write a record as a frontrunner, and come through with flying colors.  Returning to their earlier style, the band records songs that are at all times synchronicic, driven by singular rhythms and drum lines, but still finding a changing harmony to move the song.  Eschewing the dark sentiments from their early albums however, Guy Garvey sends us a message about the power of having our hands to good: “Build a Rocket, Boys!”  Let this record take you away.

Other 2011 LPs –

Cake – “Showroom of Compassion”

Danger Mouse & Danielle Luppi – “Rome” – sung by Jack White and Norah Jones, it reads like a soundtrack to a 1960’s western, composed by Danger Mouse and Italian film composer Danielle Luppi.  It was recorded on the original analog sound equipment used by Ennio Marcione to record the soundtrack to “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”.  Wonderful.

Gorillaz – “The Fall” – recorded and written entirely on an Ipad.  Very visceral.

Ben Harper – “Give Till It’s Gone” – Rock’n’Roll Ben Harper again.  Great record.

Incubus – “If Not Now, When?” – very mature record, with a simple message: “If Not Now, When?”.  If you ever liked Incubus buy this record.

Iron & Wine – “Kiss Each Other Clean”

Booker T. Jones – “The Road from Memphis” – amazing Memphis organ blues, with some cool cameos by Jim James and The Roots.

Limp Bizkit – “Gold Cobra” …go ahead, judge me.

My Morning Jacket – “Circuital” – a step back by the leaders of the alternative scene, it’s a more mature record that doesn’t make too many daring steps in any direction.  Written entirely by Jim James, the record is a smooth Rock’N’Roll album, still worth your listen for any fan of good music.

Raphael Saadiq – “Stone Rollin” – British interpretations on 1960’s rock’n’roll meets modern soul.

The Strokes – “Angles” – if you like The Strokes, you’ll like this album too.

I Like Big Cities.

Posted in Uncategorized by johnsontoms on August 16, 2011

I like big cities.  Something about the mystery that lies behind every street corner, every door, every sidewalk lamp, and how it spreads deep until the city limits hit the tree lines and still finds time to light up throughout the darkness of night.  Hidden in every square foot of space is someone new, some rich experience that I haven’t had that could lead to the greatest single minute, hour, night and time of my life.  I think often of my favorite parts of the cities I’ve been to and the people that have made those times the best of my life so far.

It never took much exploring through Austin to find a good time – whether on South Congress dancin’ to Dale Watson on Monday nights, at Zilker, Pease, Seawright, or Met Parks playing disc golf without a shirt on in the rain as the sun drops low over the horizon into gold and orange, walking around Town Lake talking to the cute couples holding hands, strolling through campus soaking in the exemplary atmosphere of our generations minds joined in the effort to engage and discuss our country’s important intellectual and political topics, bouncing from bar to bar on 6th Street shouting at the drunks who tend to shout back, pushing the car up to 80 MPH on HWY 635 driving around the west banks of the town on the cusp of the Central Texas Hill Country looking for a good place to stop and pass the time, usually on the ledge of the lookout where the cityscape spread out through the break of two slow rolling mountains.  Anything was possible and it’s the simple beauty of each time that makes me wish I were there again.  But I can never go back.  At least not ever in the same way.

It’s true for every city I know, some I’ve only seen once.  You’d be surprised what can happen halfway across the continent with a few good friends.  In Flagstaff, AZ I lost a good friend forever; not until the car ride home was over of course.  In Phoenix I learned that some people were never what I thought they were, and conversely that going home is a bad thing.  Now in Virginia I’ve made great new friends through the Army and have been to wonderful places I could never have otherwise imagined: walked the streets of Washington, D.C. in its entirety, able to see all the halls of our country’s political and historical past; strolled the sands of Virginia Beach to see the Atlantic Ocean and its bevy of ocean-goers.  Surely in each of these towns as I passed for the first time I saw and met many new people, read the expressions on strangers faces, and gathered one distinct piece of information – same shit different place.

Each day human beings with no reasonable physical commonality beyond citizenship engage in exactly the same behavior without attrition.  The concept is mind-blowing to me, to think that amongst the 350-million or so human animals that have gathered from sea to shining sea we have concocted only about 50-100 truly genuine different ways to live and behave, morally, religiously, scientifically, politically and without deviation.  Somehow the system has given us all the same dreams, ideas, and faiths and I sadly believe that less than 2% openly challenge this notion of accepted human behavior.  Is it right to find a job and support a family by finance, or by physical skills that can hunt/gather food and shelter?  Is it right to believe in a god that fits into a sociopolitical schema, or is it better to find a god through self-searching and possibly reach a conclusion outside of cultural normality? Is it even worth the stress, alienation, and torture that I could go through to achieve these answers, or is it better to accept that regardless of faith and without therefore a guided purpose to living the best we can do is go along?  I have no idea, but I hope not to quit.

Soon in a few weeks I’ll be able to finally disappear from my environment for a days, this time in a completely separate peace – I’m going to go hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Appalachians with a few platoonmates of mine, in hopes to find silence, the woods, and some cognition of nature.  It is of course a place I’ve never been, physically, but spiritually not dissimilar from the environments that often brought me the most comfort.  In the forests and the trees we are able, nay, forced to explore ourselves without the commonplace distractions so frequent to urban living – the list is endless but the simplest and most intrinsic can be stated as women and drinking.  Sure there will be drinking but I look forward to the canopy of trees overhead and staring down the mountainside at the clouds gathered below, able for the first time in months to escape a hangar floor where I work on combat helicopters, symbolic of the unnecessary aggression men oppose on men and instead focused on the harmony of the birds and the rain, the one flying with grace through the other that brings us humans such opposition and difficulty, thinking maybe for more than just a minute that surely these small examples of animal ingenuity and combined instinct might serve as obvious examples to the inferiority of the human species, and maybe for just a minute think that we cannot be serious if we think we’re doing well for ourselves.

There are so many things in front of us that it’s near to tragedy that many and most humans will never experience the true elation that comes with a riverside sunrise where the treeline across the banks turns from black to charcoal to navy to sky and the cows troll their way toward the water to begin grazing for the day, or that exact moment when a strong wind blows through a group of cedar trees in the spring, forcing each tree to release hundreds of its pollen bearing seed to lightly glide through the air like snowflakes on a winter day, hanging before your eyes in the sunlight and gently rolling to the ground and rest in hopes on it, too, sprouting one day.  In the daily regimen of working out and working on choppers I get infrequently the opportunity to witness a passing day, seen in the glow of the sunset on the leaves of a blooming chrysanthemum bush full of tiny pink feather-light petals that blow away in the wind.  But even here, even here where I am not allowed to leave the post come Saturday, there are these opportunities to see, and be aware.

In the cities these opportunities do exist and in a way more acutely sensible to our existence.  It is for the following reason that I believe I love cities so much – it is representative of our existence in this world and our relation to each other.  The best can be found in city squares and parks, areas designed to bring humans together, sometimes humans with each other and nature.  The pool at Barton Springs pushes the creek high into a swimmable depth at the trench of two sloping hills lined with a paved sidewalk, still cold enough to chill your bones, still strong enough to push you down, but still beautiful enough to let you remember that it’s mother nature that put this together and quite possibly put us together, too, not the other way around.  But if it weren’t for the city, the people wouldn’t exist.  Therein comes the glory when the two are combined well.  Go in a bar, dance with the women.  Go for a walk, talk to the strangers.  Turn a corner, turn a smile.  Were the streets to stay lit all night it would drive me wild, I wouldn’t know whether to sleep at night or day, to meet the sun or to meet the moon, each with their gifts and each with their surprises.

It cannot come to pass that this life will ever cease to amaze me.

For that reason also though it contains its same measure of sadness.  I wish when I meet these people on the benches waiting for the bus, sharing cigarettes and the failures that brought us together, that I could somehow make them more cognizant of their place in this random spectral moment, that somehow their intellectual connections with their nation, political party, or church are less important than their physical connections with the spaces and places and people and trees and weather around them, that if they weren’t so focused on where to cast their ballot or apply for work that they might take a minute to dive into a saloon for a bar and tip the waitress, because it’s the people that we can touch that need our help most.

If I could do it my way these words and thoughts would be put on paper where strangers passing a New York newsstand would stop and purchase a copy, then pass it on to their friends, and in years maybe I’ll be able to leave a legacy of saying important things.  Until then I’m content to drift, wander, and never find that place everyone is looking for.  The cities are everywhere after all and so too are the people.  Just roll on, town to town, road to road, woman to woman, drink by drink.  It’s all a mystery which one will be the one.

Maybe that’s why I like big cities.

Memories

Posted in poem by johnsontoms on August 5, 2011

I see faces and hear voices

Elizabeth walking in front but turning her head back to smile over her shoulder and through that blonde, blonde sun-dipped hair

or Heather vacuuming the apartment in nothing but her yoga sculpted body and honey-brown skin,

And sometimes I wish God had made memories more literal and with actual to-the-touch feeling.

 

It’s probably better he didn’t

Most men would save all their thoughts for the touch of a wet cunt or a sloppy kiss from some whore they can’t get back.

Not me.

I always enjoyed holding their hands while shuffling our feet

Sometimes in rhythm but always in style.

Anyone can fuck but not everyone can dance.

 

Usually if the mood was low, the blues lower,

The smoke would fill the room and all it would take is “Mind a spin?” to get you in.

Moving together was the best way to know someone,

Dancing perhaps the best way to remember.

Poets

Posted in poem by johnsontoms on August 5, 2011

Bukowski was a dog and Burroughs wrote about hell on earth

and some say there’s none worse than Sade

but it was Frost who said

“nothing gold can stay.”

 

For the man who led us down the road less travelled

that’s a hard way to live and I’d like to think

that such a short order on hope

is no way to dream.

 

So give me the dogs and hell on earth

that I can find my way in the words

because pain in their lines comes from the pain of life

but anyone who says gold will not stay

is surely doomed to the same.

Notecards

Posted in poem by johnsontoms on August 5, 2011

As I was walking through the garden that opened the coffee shop,

Underneath a thatch gazebo sat a pink notecard that caught my eye

and for reasons I don’t know why

I had to stop.

 

I think partly I wasn’t ready to go in and accepted the excuse to stay out,

Nervous to meet for the first time the girl I knew two nights before

But also because my curiosity wanted to see what the card was about.

 

Sure enough and without much surprise it was a verse from the Bible written there in ink,

“Only through Christ…” or something along those lines

and I wanted to reply

so I started to think.

 

Before I could write an answer the rain started to fall,

I went inside without thinking it over,

she saw me from the corner

and I had to sit with nothing to say at all.

 

It was good to see her reading so I wouldn’t give her discomfort

As I worked to find the right words to be written down

So if again the card were found

The message might have worth.

 

Of course she had to ask and from me: “It’s something I need to say.”

Wrote something down by Heidegger like “I became free once I gave up God”

and though I was afraid of what she thought

she put no expression on her face.

 

In some weird way I thought it might impress her

She was reading the Bhagavad Gita for one

But there was also a son

which makes holding faith for her just that much better.

 

Then it was like starting over ’cause we were drunk during that night

I think that’s why she called me to spend time during the day

Hoping that being sober would give us time to say

words that felt right.

 

“Is that really what you think?”

“I don’t know what I believe but I know what I don’t.”

And the more I talked it became just a ramble,

but something I hoped she’d see

that these things were just me

and she wouldn’t leave on her own.

 

And when she closed her book and began to shuffle my nervous ticks started

…’There she goes’ with her soft, dark skin and deep, peering eyes,

One of the wonderfully gorgeous ones I’m glad to find

but always leave me broken hearted.

 

She got up, ran her hands through her hair, turned around and smiled.

“Let’s go for a walk” as she pointed to the rain

And I got up to go her way

Leaving the notecard behind where it could be found in a while.

Body Types

Posted in poem by johnsontoms on August 5, 2011

So many body types but two-by-two we still fit together

Though one-by-one someone always pulls out,

drops out

falls out

quits to find another.

Like so many before and so many after but that’s what makes it easy

To think about later when it’s too late

“It was a mistake”

said by the time it’s dead

And we’re left 1×1 to wander around as a bunch of bodies

touching bodies

feeling bodies

piecing bodies together for just a minute to remember

That 2×2 is better and think that maybe 2×2 is best for only a minute

Because 1×1 is the only way to go about it all

Even though 2×2 is the only thing on anyone’s mind.