Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Because I've been thinking about Frank Stanford again ...

The Singing Knives

The dogs woke me up
I looked out the window

Jimmy ran down the road
With the knife in his mouth
He was naked
And the moon
Was a dead man floating down the river

He jumped on the gypsy’s pony
He rode through camp
I could see the dust

There was the saddlebag full of knives
He was crazy

When Jimmy cut a throat
The eyes rolled back in the head
Like they was baptized
I tell you
When he cut a throat
It was like Abednego’s guitar
And the blood
Flew out like a quail

He had the red hand
He poked the eyes out

I dreamed I stepped over a log
And there was fire in my foot
I dreamed I saw a turkey and two wildcats
Jumped on me at the same time
I dreamed jimmy was pouring ice water
Over my head at noon
I dreamed I heard somebody
Singing in the outhouse
I dreamed the mad dog bit the Gypsy
And they tied him to a tree
I dreamed I was buried in the Indian mound
And moon lake rose up
I dreamed my father was wading the river of death
With his heart in his hand
I dreamed Jimmy rowed out the front door
With a hawk on his shoulder
And I was in the bow kneeling down
I dreamed the blacksnake rode the guitar
Down the river
I dreamed the clouds went by
The moon like dead fish
I dreamed I was dragging
A cotton sack with a dead man in it
I dreamed the fish bandits stole the hogs
Off my lines
And one of them was hunchback
I dreamed the night was a horse
With its eyes shut
I dreamed I had to fight
the good man with the bad arm
And he had the dynamite
I dreamed I trailed a buck from Panther Brake to Panther Burn
I dreamed the Chickasaw slit his throat in the papaw
I dreamed that rising sun was smoking blood
You could pick up and throw
I dreamed the Chinaman’s peg leg
I dreamed I was fishing in heaven with Sho Nuff
and Jesus cleaned the fish
I dreamed a man flies wouldn’t bite
I dreamed I was riding through Leland in a dragline bucket
And the cotton making everyday
I dreamed we got the bootlegger’s truck out of the mud
I dreamed the levee broke

I dreamed the Gypsy was laughing under the water
And the minnows were swimming though his eyes
I dreamed I reached down in Moon Lake
And untied his arms and one hand
Floated up the way it did
When he threw those knives
I dreamed the pony that fights in the water
And the boat that towed the dead man
I dreamed I felt the knife singing in Abednego’s back
I dreamed I pulled the ring out of his ear
And Jimmy put it on his finger
And swam through the water
I dreamed he was looking for Abednego’s boot
And when he came up
He had the jackknife between his teeth
I dreamed he was so beautiful
He had to die someday
I dreamed a knife like a song you can’t whistle

“Let’s go, I got to throw tonight” he says

He had the bandanna around his neck
And the pilot’s cap on
He played the harp in the moonlight

I led the horse out back
I tied him to a Chinaberry tree

“What you want” I says
But I knew he wanted me
Standing at the back of that outhouse
“Shut up” he says “don’t move”
The dirt dobbers flew around my head

He threw Boo Kay Jack at me
He threw Django at me

The mosquitoes drew blood
I looked on the ground
I saw the shadows coming like gars
swimming under me at night
I saw the red moon too
I wished I was running a trot line
I wished I was in a fight
I wished I was fanning myself in church
But there was a heart on the fan
With a switchblade through it

And the knives came by

The bone handled one
The hawk handled one
The one with a blade like a skiff
Out of his boot
Behind his back
Mexican style
The way Abednego showed him
Singing in the outhouse
Like a horse breaking wind

He took the knife and ran it
Across his arm
The he ran it across mine

Blood came out like hot soda

He tied our arms together
With the blue bandanna
And we laid down in the cotton

I wished I was riding a mule somewhere
Blowing a jug
With a string full of crappie
And the cotton making everyday

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Post Antony and the Johnsons Show

I cannot say enough words, or at least, I cannot find the right ones to contain last night's Antony and the Johnsons show at the Bijou Theatre here in Knoxville. Friends from Kalamazoo will understand this reference when I say the venue was very similar to the Little Theatre, only it was smaller. It was by far the most intimate and artistic performance I have ever seen and I left feeling like my soul had been carved just a little deeper - also, happy that there was room in the world for someone with such a cavernous soul and matching cavernous vulnerability as Antony Hegarty.

Have you ever come back from a performance, whether it be a reading, a concert, or a play, and just felt like it righted everything again? Yeah. It was like that.

Here's a couple clips from other concerts:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Us v. Knoxville

It's good to try to make a go of things. It really is. I think it's safe to say I'm a "give it the ol' college try" kind of girl, fairly positive, with not a small amount of workitivity in me. But this Tennessee thing - well, we can just not take a shining to this place. My husband and I were driving home from yet another so-so Knoxville restaurant last night and we played our usual roles: me as the positive one suggesting it's not so bad here and my husband playing cynical man. (In his defense, he's very positive and forward-thinking when he needs to be, but he has been broken down, abused, trampled on). His rant last night could not be argued against, unfortunately. It's true - there's nothing here we would look back on and say, "Oh, don't you wish we could go there again? To that bookstore? To that shop? To that festival? To that restaurant?" Not a thing.

What confounds us is how such a big college town could be so lacking in anything resembling individuality or spark? Where are the great independent cd stores? Where are the awesome used bookstores? Where's that one bar that faithfully serves us cheap pitchers of beer every Thursday night? Where's that coffeehouse that can be depended on to play the right background music while we grade student papers?

But hope - that light through yonder window breaking - a friend of mine just got a job at the school where I wanted to get a job and something about his news made me a) overwhelmingly joyful for him, and b) hopeful we too could return to Grand Rapids, that place I love so much despite its dark, long winters.

So with fingers crossed, we plow through another Knoxville week, going without the meat and cursing the bread, hoping we get out of here before a bullet goes through our head. Hope. Hope ...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Teaching Dilemmas

The greatest affront a teacher can face is a student's bold assertion that they do not care to be any smarter (or more accurately, any less stupid) than they currently are. They don't care. Nothing I can say is ever going to stimulate or interest them in any way. It's to those students I have the most hostility. Here is something I found online which addresses this accurately, and to it, I say AMEN (from Vicky Newman's "Misreading the kiss: Teaching Manuel Puig's Kiss of the Spider Woman"):

Students will not indict the exigencies of capitalism. For the pervading view is the cool consumer perspective, where passion and strong admiration are forbidden.... Is it a surprise, then, that this generation of students steeped in consumer culture before going off to school, treated as potent customers by the university well before their date of arrival, then pandered to from day one until the morning of the final kiss-off from Kermit or one of his kin-are inclined to see the books they read as a string of entertainments to be placidly enjoyed or languidly cast down? Given the way universities are now administered (which is more and more to say, given the way they are currently marketed), is it a shock that the kids don't come to school hot to learn, unable to bear their own ignorance? (Edmundson 47)

Call for Kiss of the Spider Woman Critical Essays

Hi smart friends,

Can anyone lead me to particularly good critical evaluations of Manuel Puig's, "Kiss of the Spider Woman"? I'm finding a lot of junk online and am wondering if anyone can lead me to higher sources of discussion.