Sunday, March 18, 2018

How I've Grieved The Loss of My Father

My Grieving Process in over the course of my lifetime:

My father began preparing me for his death when I was 10 years old after he had a health issue. I'd lived in fear of his being killed in the line of duty all my childhood, be it with the PD or should his reserve unit be deployed.

Dad eventually retired from the PD, didn't get deployed during Operation Desert Shield or Storm, & took a Security job in a safer environment. Still I had been conditioned to expect his death. It was ingrained in our relationship. The specter of death loomed large.

When I was 19 & the staff at my dorm came to my door & told me to call home when I slept through incessant ringing, I was primed for bad news about him & I swear my first words were, "Who died?" It was my nearly 5 year old niece.

My Dad made the 6 hour round trip with his first cousin, the indispensable Charlie Brown aka Cousin Charles, to get me. I was glad he was alive, but the loss of my niece crushed our family as it brought us together. Think about it.

We grieved HARD, broken throughout. The loss of that child put the cumbersome hyper-consciousness of my Father's, & my own, mortality in stark relief. It had to be gotten over for sake of moving forward & supporting the collective family.

Then came the next health scare for my father, followed by another, the most dire he'd ever faced, both within a years time. Suddenly the looming threat had manifest as the reaper placing his chessboard in your path. My father's life now subject to timed turns of play.

For all the grim reality & melancholy that comes with mourning one's passing before it had come, my father & I were vigilant and exuberant about the things we love, & though weakened by the fight to maintain his health often, he focused on the Living & the Joy.

Then death came calling Elders and Peers, & with fewer pieces on the board, every move was more consequential, be it deliberate or haphazard. Then came more mortifying health news coupled with immediate reassurances, & residual complications.

Then came another bit of dire news, & not much later a bold choice to pursue a life change, relocation, that would separate me & my father such a distance that my economics would render his departure a likely farewell.

It was when his relocation was affirmed that the grieving process began for me & my focus shifted to manifesting my appreciation for his efforts, & cognizance of his mortality in actions that would help him reach his chosen destination.

But he couldn't shake the feeling he wasn't going to make it. The journey from his home seemed snake-bit & he likened himself to Job. The decline from health to fragility was plotted an easily discernible downward trajectory.

Unfortunately for us, the despair of my father's situation & my role as support negated any discussion of his demise, as his state of mind was still a factor in any potential recovery from the nagging ailments.

But it couldn't be denied any longer, & as others got involved & things took a turn for the worse, I had to acknowledge a lifetime of sullen resignation on both our parts, he to mortality, mine, to my inability to shift focus from that in our relationship.

So for me, everything I was doing to help my father relocate was part of letting go of my father being a part of my now, & the indelible existence we shared as father & son becoming part of eternity across time as space.

So when my father told me he was ready to let go. I was ok with that. That I had to assert to him that I did not bear grievance against him for doing so, & that I loved him & accepted his choice, That evoked my tears. That my support of His will escaped his view.

Having cleared the air I left his side to pick up some things for his care that would make it more comfortable for him. I was also tasked as messenger, a role I was familiar with. I fully expected another morning with him would come, but it did not. He was gone.

I returned to the hospital to see my father just as they were preparing to transfer his body from his bed to the gurney. They gave me the room. It was the first time I saw someone who was deceased outside of at a wake or funeral in my life.

The light of life was obviously gone, & much like when I was at the first wake I can remember, near abouts age 6-7 years old, I got the sense it could return in an instant to the body before me. I checked myself & said "He's not here anymore... Bye Dad, Love you."

There was no sadness in me, no joy, just acceptance. My father was gone, & I was not to precede him in passing, so I was meant to be witness. It is my reality. The sadness struck when a greater reality outside of my father & I became unavoidable.

When I was fresh out of high school, I ran my mouth about every thought, regurgitated every so-called wisdom I heard, offering platitudes as insight and consolation out of naive sympathy & projection instead of true empathy.

Then as tragedy after tragedy struck my own family & friends, my study of faith, introspection about life experiences, muted my tones, weighted my words, until the reflex to be quick to comfort turned to a muted hush.

As people I know & cared about lost loved ones, despite having been conditioned to dread their imminent passing, my parents survived, my siblings survived. To speak on someone else's grief felt wrong to me. I was so blessed, so grateful for it.

So in what may have been a gross over-correction I vacillated from avoiding those grieving or grieving myself, or stumbling over myself every time my heart was heavy with empathy but I felt as if I was intruding by projecting that feeling outward.

And this went on for years, me at a loss as to how to address the bereaved in a way I could reconcile with my shame for my cockiness as a teen, & my experience & melancholy as an adult, accepting my time with my loved ones has ever encroaching mortal limits.

I knew wholeheartedly that if I let myself I could reflect the emotions of my mourning friends & recognize myself in their pain from my own experience. And yet I was blessed with my parents & immediate family, & cherished that blessing.

I learned to find resolve in honoring & memorializing the dead from my father by virtue of he making that his profession for the last years of his employment.  It helped me realize that innate sense of purpose is what helped me turn the corner on grieving my niece.

Nevertheless, I could no longer escape the reservoir of emotions I had stored up, the withheld sense of kinship & pain with all my friend who grieved openly as I "Stayed Strong" & or silent. I would have to tell them how I felt, knowing I'd be in their shoes.

Then I thought of every friend of my father I would need to reach out, because I respected & admired them all by virtue of how much they respected & admired my father, & thus encouraged me. Now they would be brought to tears before me for the 1st time in my life.

The magnanimity of my father loomed large, & my commitment to honor that kinship he shared, the love that was reciprocated between he & his friends & family meant I would have both purpose & pathos by which I might actualize my mourning.

So that is what I have done, & in doing so I have found resolve & resolution. My father built many communities of friends & family, their structures often independent, yet sharing a central cornerstone. Flawed & human as he was, he held it up as long as he could.

My father built a tent, & knew one day he would greet the sunrise for the last time, & I remain as his shadow cast upon the earth, surveying those in the shadow of the canopy he provided in all he did.

So I will say the goodbyes my father wasn't able to, & share the light rendered upon me from the best of him. There will no longer be a barrier between my heart & my friends for fear of my infringing on their grieving. I have be released. I can let go.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Albums to Look Forward to in 2018


Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Wrong Creatures
Ty Tabor - Alien Beans

Glenn Hansard - Between Two Shores
tUnE - yArDs - I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life
Inara George - Dearest Everybody

Jeffrey Gaines - Alright (Pledgemusic)
Ampline - Passion Relapse

Son Lux - Brighter Wounds

S. Carey - Hundred Acres
Charlotte Day Wilson - Stone Woman

Jonathan Wilson - Rare Birds
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 - Black Times
The Breeders - All Nerve

David Kitt - Yous

Lissie - Castles




Kimbra - Primal Heart
Bishop Briggs - Church of Scars

Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer

Damien Jurado - The Horizon Just Laughed
Leon Bridges - Good Thing
Venetian Snares & Daniel Lanois -  S/T
Alana Davis - Love Again

Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Motel & Casino

Ray Lamontagne - Part of the Light 1

Ben Howard - Noonday Dream
Richard Edwards - Verdugo
Tancred - Nightstand
Roger Daltrey - As Long As I Have You

Lykke Li - So Sad So Sexy

Johnny Marr - Call the Comet

Anthony Green - Would You Still Be In Love

Meg Myers - Take Me to the Disco
Ume - Other Nature
Eisley - I'm Only Dreaming... Of Days Gone Past

Tides of Man - Everything Nothing

Death Cab For Cutie - Thank You For Today

Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood - With Animals
Neil and Liam Finn - Lightsleeper

Anna Calvi - Hunter

Lenny Kravitz - Raise Vibration
Prince Piano & A Microphone: 1983 [Posthumous live]

The Joy Formidable - AAARTH

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Poetic LIcense...or...In Other Words #4

Every now and then your favorite songs are so good that they allow you to look past certain quirks and nuances that are so contrary that in a lesser work they would be the subject of ridicule. It's Okay by Land of Talk is one of my all-time favorite song & likely my all-time favorite ballad. But leave it to me to find one line that I feel was either purposely changed to avoid being cliche, or... I don't know why they would make the creative choice they did other than to just do something different that wasn't so obvious. But in this case I feel the obvious lyrical choice would do the sentiment of the song so much Justice and it wouldn't detract from the lyric at all.

It's Okay
It's okay,
I don't even cry
all I think about is a memory
and the dream when you kissed my arm
as I look away, don't hear what I say
That maybe when I die,
I'll get to be a car
driving in the night
lighting up the dark.
something in your voice
it sparks a little hope
I'll wait up for that noise
your voice become my home
One way road, don't care what I find
A little thunder's good, I thought maybe you would
but it's okay, we all feel left out
sometimes growing up, it can get you down.
I give you something that no one's going to give you
my sleepin' skin and my heart deep down in you
I'll never tell you, but you're my little scar
Goodbyes are hard and they're hard and they're hard
Maybe when I die
I'll get to be a car
driving in the night
Lighting up the dark
Something in your voice,
sparks a little hope
I'll wait up for that noise
your voice becomes my home
Songwriters: Elizabeth Powell
It's Okay lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

So here is the phrase:

Maybe when die
I'll get to be a car
driving in the night
lighting up the dark.

The obvious change:

Maybe when I die
I'll get to be a star
Shining through the night
Lighting up the dark

Poetic Embellishment:

Maybe when I die
I'll live on in your heart
Spirits intertwined
Never drawn apart

There are plenty of ways to spin it but none are necessary because Elizabeth sings the original with vulnerability and sincerity so potent that thr curious imagery of automotive reinCarnation is totally acceptable.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Poetic License...or In Other Words #3

I've been sitting on this one for a minute, cause it's an easy fix in my head, and also one that adds a little something to the power of the song. What song?

My Name Is Human by Highly Suspect

I'm only of a mind to tweak 1 line in the main chorus that goes:

"Get up off your knees, boy
Stand face to face with your God
And find out what you are(Hello, my name is human)Hello, my name is humanAnd I came down from the stars(Hello, my name is human)"

It's ironic that the only phrase I have a problem with is the title of the song when it's echoed. There's just so much potential there for pathos since this is in essence a sing-a-long chorus. My first thought was to just change the phrase to:

Get up off your knees
Stand face to face with your God
And find out what you are
(I know I'm only human)
Hello, my name is human

And I cam down from the stars
(I know I'm more than human)

Either of those replacement lines work, and there's no need to use both, but I like the way using both represents the conflict people have with their ideas about their limits and their potential. It's a representation of the existential dilemma that comes with reconciling consciousness, mortality, and, infinity.

Regardless, I dig the song and the way it uses a cadence you'd heard in contemporary r & b for the delivery of the verses. It's the modern equivalent of a spoken verse, but with melody and rhythm giving it a coolness that doesn't compromise the groove. It allows for the the wordplay to be so straight-forward, but still deceptively clever, in plain spoken vernacular. Tweaking those two lines would have been the final revision that put it over the top for me, though credit where credit is due, if you can't get people to sing something that in context, sounds kind of odd, you've struck musical gold.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2017's Albums to Look Forward To

Here's what's on my radar so far:


Colony House - Only the Lonely


Cuddle Magic - Ashes/Axis


Elbow - Little Fictions
Big Wreck - Grace Street
Shannon Wright - Division


Mother Mother - No Culture


Son Volt - Notes of Blue
Eisley - I'm Only Dreaming
Ryan Adams - Prisoner
The Verve Pipe - Parachutes
Soft Sleep - Infinite Circles


Acceptance - Colliding By Design (Pledgemusic)
Jeff Lang - Alone in Bad Company


Minus the Bear - Voids
Beth Bombara - Map & No Direction (Pledgemusic)
Junius - Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light


David Bazan - Care


KXM - Scatterbrain
Ari Hest - Natural (bandcamp)
Depeche Mode - Spirit


Will Johnson - Hatteras Night, A Good Luck Charm
Bridget Kearney - Won't Let You Down
Aaron Sprinkle - Real Life


Aimee Mann - Mental Illness
Richard Edwards (Margot & the Nuclear So and Sos) - Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset



Anders Parker - The Man Who Fell From Earth (Pledgemusic)
John Mayer - The Search for Everything


Incububs - 8


Mark Lanegan Band - Gargoyle
Juliana Hatfield - Pussycat
R. Ring - Ignite the Rest
The Classic Crime - How To Be Human (Kickstarter)
Feist - Pleasure
Violents - Awake and Pretty Much Sober


Paul Weller - A Kind of Revolution


Land Of Talk - Life After Youth


Ben Ottewell - A Man Apart
Sarah Jaffe - Bad Baby


Dan Auerbach - Waiting On A Song


Phoenix - Ti Amo
Rise Against - Wolves
Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie


Steve Earle - So You Wanna Be An Outlaw
Ours - Spectacular Sight


Jeff Tweedy - Together At Last
UNKLE - The Road Part 1


Broken Social Scene - Hug of Thunder


The Dears - Times Infinity: Volume Two


Manchester Orchestra - A Black Mile to the Surface

Paul Draper (Mansun) - Spooky Action


Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins

Queens of the Stone Age - Villains
Filthy Friends - Invitation


Starsailor - All This Life

Tori Amos - Native Invader
Alex Cameron - Forced Witness
Victor Wooten - Trypnotyx
Ted Leo - The Hanged Man (Kickstarter)


Foo Fighters - Concrete and Gold
Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton - Choir of the Mind


Circa Survive - The Amulet

Moses Sumney - Aromanticism
Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger In the Alps
Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun

Wolf Alice - Visions of A Life

Craig Wedren - Adult Desire

Liam Gallagher - As You Were
Dhani Harrison - IN///PARALLEL

The Barr Brothers - Queen of the Breakers
St. Vincent - Masseducation
Matt Cameron - Cavedweller
stars - There Is No Love In Fluorescent ight
Billy Corgan - Ogilala
Robert Plant - Carry Fire

Kele Okereke - Fatherland
Brand New - Science Fiction

Julien Baker - Turn Out The Lights
Weezer - Pacific Daydream
Joe Henry - Thrum

Lalah Hathaway - Honestly

Quicksand - Interiors

Sharon Jones - Soul of a Woman
Charlotte Gainsbourg - Rest
Mavis Staples - If All I Was Was Black

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Who Built The Moon
Bjork - Utopia

The Dear Hunter - All Is As All Should Be
Gord Downey - Introduce Yourself
U2 - Songs of Experience
Miguel - War & Leisure
Neil Young and the Promise of the Real - The Visitor

The New Trust - Upset the Tides

Lovedrug - Relive

Complete -Uncertain release date that I am aware of:

Will Johnson - Little Raider 2, two 7"s, The 901 LP
Kimbra - Primal Heart Jan 19th 2018
David Kitt - Yous

Ongoing Scheduled releases

Sleeping At Last - Astronomy

Definitely in Production:

Ty Tabor

Now Now
Raphael Saadiq
My Brightest Diamond

Rumored to be in Production

The Cure - 4:14 Scream

Friday, December 16, 2016

Poetic License or... In Other Words: #2

Once upon a time there was a song, a song featured in many live performances upon the release of an album by a band that had managed to ascend the charts and critical consciousness of the music industry in the early 2000s. Up to the moment of this song, their lyricism of their material wasn't put under much scrutiny, but in retrospect, "Yellow" is worthy of a little scorn.  That said, when the most prominent couplet in the song is the most offensive to poetic sensibilities, it's a lightning rod for further scrutiny. That being said, Coldplay's "Fix You", initially my favorite song on X & Y before it got incredibly overplayed and lost the power of sentiment it held, is up to bat.

The offending line goes:

"Lights will guide you home
and ignite your bones..."


I honestly have mulled over a number of improvements to this line. It's not at all difficult since it already employs a slant rhyme.  I opted to use a true rhyme and a phrase that fit the context and added significance and come up with:

Deepening the relationship between the light and the journey
"Lights will guide you home, fading as you roam"

Focusing on the journey specifically retaining the slant rhyme
"Lights will guide you home, when you're lose and alone"

but initially when I first heard the song back then I thought the easiest fix was changing one simple word:

Lights will guide you home, and ignite your soul

In reality, for my writing still the first line works better as the closing line, and opens up the flow of the lyric as a declaration of devotion.

"If you're lost and alone lights will guide you home "

or more poetically

"When your hope is is all but gone lights will guide you home... and I will try to fix you"

Friday, December 9, 2016

Poetic License or... In Other Words: A new series.

For a while now I've wanted to rework lines from songs that I enjoy that have left me a wishing they were put another way, so I figured, that's a good theme for my blog. So here goes:

The first line I want to tackle comes from Eisley's "Marvelous Things", in the second verse they sing, "I followed a rabbit, through mermaid entwined shrubbery." It's a mouthful, the meter and melody force the words to be sung faster than any others in the song, and the word play has been the subject of a little embarrassment from the band, as depicted in this fan shot video.

Now, I love this song, but I won't deny that I always take a breath (mentally and physically) before I sing that lyric. They have a couple of doosies like that.  Needless to say, that's part of the charm of the band, the whimsy they had early on.  But being a lyricist, I was always curious if I could find a way to augment the line to flow rhythmically and poetically. I thought of a few versions, but here's what I came up with:

"I followed a rabbit, through sirens entwined, arranged in lines..."

That said, enjoy the "Marvelous Things" as I first experienced it.