Paulelmo's Blog

The Empty Glass Poems (1999-2006) Numbers 3 and 4 (“Reasons to Slam” and “Pusher (Spurgie’s Song)”)

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Image result for shutterstock pictures of an empty mic on a stage

I had an Advanced Poetry Writing Workshop in the Spring of 2001, and it was enough to make me stop writing poetry for a few years. Nothing against the class—which was adroitly and informatively taught by my friend Dr. Jean Anaporte-Easton—but it showed me that poetry could require a lot more work than I cared to put into it.

Interesting side note: The final for that class—English 430—was actually a spoken word performance at The Empty Glass.

So, I quit writing poetry for a while, and spoken word dried up some at The Glass. Then, in 2005, I happened to be living on the East End—the safe side, about a block from The Glass—and things picked back up.

The third slam I wrote for performance on the stage The Glass was such a satisfying experience for me. Looking at these six pieces all together, I think these two, from 2005 and 2006, are the strongest of them.

This one, “Reasons to Slam,” epitomizes my work as a spoken word artist.

 

REASONS TO SLAM

Why do we speak in such
fashion?
Why do we speak in this
way?
Why do we string words together like this,
put them to rhythms, and send them on waves?

Why do we come to these stages?
Why did we come here tonight?
Why do we fill up these pages
with the thoughts and the sights from our lives?

Do we really think folks will listen?
Do we really think someone will care
to hear us speak our conditions
in hopes to better another then’s there,
or are we just mentally fragile
and fraught with the need to feel
that we’re more than we are,
that our clumsy minds are really quite agile,
that, while living in our gutters,
we can dream of the stars?

Yes.

We do think folks will listen.
We do think someone will care.
We do think that parts
that make up our conditions
can have good effect on
some other then’s there,
but we are a bit mentally fragile and
fraught with the need to feel
that we’re more than we are,
that our clumsy minds,
with words, become agile,
and even in the gutters,
we can have some faith in
our dreams of the stars.

Because words are never just words,
when strung together
with performance in mind;
they are music with meter and rhythm, and
they soothe the souls of
beings of like kind.
They remove us from all that is physical
and put us in
dimensions closer to God,
the wave and the ray,
the beauteous and lyrical.
And we find that it’s really
not all that far
from lying there in our gutters
to flitting among the stars.

 Oh, why?
why?
why?
Why do we speak in these
manners?
Why do we stand and
recite
words we’ve committed to memory
from the all of forever life?
Do we really think
we’ve found some answer?
Do we really think
we have a clue?
Do we really think
words can salve the wounds of a heart
and let some healing get through?

Do we think the beating will
ease?
that beating with which life
can punish us all,
that the mind will find peace and
the soul will find rest,
just because we turned words into song?

Yes.
Because the soul is born in rhythm and light,
wave and ray,
free from the confines of physical bounds,
we release ourselves on the musical sounds.

***

The fourth of The Empty Glass poems, “Pusher” aka “Spurgie’s Song,” is unique in the way I wrote it.

The Spurgie Hankins Band plays Tuesday nights at The Glass; they did then, and they still do now. Spurgie’s set includes the performance of the song “Express Yourself,” not the Madonna song, but a Spurgie original.

During the performance of this song, Spurgie has different friends come up and express themselves, and during that period I was one of the friends who took the stage to do so.

Early on, I would fit my previously written verses to the band’s jam, and it really did work pretty well. We enjoyed ourselves, and the music was well-received. Something was missing for me, however; I felt as if I should have words that were written specifically for that vibe, so I set out to write them.

That gives the first way that the verses are unique: they were originally written to be sung and spoken.

The poem was also unique, to that point, in that it was the first spoken word piece that was written during two different periods a couple months apart. Prior to that, I would just sit down and write a piece; it might take me a bit of time to do so, but I can’t recall any that weren’t completed in a day.

I went to Oaxaca, Mexico for three and a half weeks that mid-July to early-August, and I wrote the first half of this piece a couple weeks before and the second have not long after I returned.

All of this coincided with my falling in love with Becky, my wife, which makes it all a special time for me.

”Pusher,” while it might not epitomize my spoken word life, is possibly the best poem/slam/song I’ve ever written.

Here, the narrative point of view moves from I to we.

 

“Pusher”
(Spurgie’s Song)

Let’s define this night with music;
let’s line the path with sound;
we’ll pave the road
with tones and notes
that raise our feet up off the ground.
We’ll find ourselves a solitude
like no one’s ever found,
a peace, a trance, a sonic romance
that’ll keep our spirits spinning around.

We’ll sing our song for all men,
lift our voices to the sky.
We’ll make the dark and cynical
stop and wonder why
we live life with such verve,
such passion, and such hope;
tell them that
between the waves
we found the pusher,
and music is our dope.

We’ve emptied our share of bottles
and burned down plenty pipes.
We’ve weebled and wobbled drunkenly
through tortured and forgotten nights.
We’ve sought release in money,
in successes, and in loves,
but only music gives the kind of calm
that we’ve been dreaming of.

So let’s dedicate this night to music;
we’ll find infinity in these sounds.
We can rave and jive and funk and vibe and
find a reason for this
hanging around.
For what else could we want
than pleasant passage of our time?
And since I’ve brought my passions
to mix with yours,
won’t you mix yours with mine?

We’ll sing our song for all men;
lift our voices to the sky;
we’ll make the dark and cynical
stop and wonder why
we live life with such verve,
such promise, and such hope.
Tell them that
between the waves
we’ve found the pusher,
and music is our dope.
Music is our dope.
Music is our dope.

***

It really was a magical time for me, and I couldn’t be more pleased that some of that magic spilled over onto the stage at The Empty Glass.

Hope you enjoy these, my friends. They, and many others, can be found in my latest book The Philosophical Verses (Vol. 1), which can be found on Amazon.

Thanks for reading.

2 Replies to “The Empty Glass Poems (1999-2006) Numbers 3 and 4 (“Reasons to Slam” and “Pusher (Spurgie’s Song)”)”

  1. That is what I want when I read a WordPress post. Evocative to the point I had mental images of the place you were taking about and felt the distance of time from the events. Then it came to your words. And they’re great words Man. Thanks for this post. I feel like I’ve seen a little projection of a highe quality super 8 home move of The Empty Glass and the house band and the scene. Love it

    1. Kind words indeed, sir. Those will keep me stepping all evening. You’d dig the Glass, bro. You’d fit in quite nicely, I imagine. Much thanks always, my friend.

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