Does it matter which comes
first: question or answer?
Every answer has a path from
which its question can be derived.
On the other hand, questions
do not always carry their own answers.
Behind this window, new
but the same as all the others,
I try to write poetry, but
it always turns into another question
that will not answer itself. One of these days
my wit will be the end of me.
Running but not moving,
holding on while letting go,
spinning still and standing –
is this, and how does it
Busy duet in D minor
Doesn’t sound quite right.
Maybe it’s just the chords
not falling right, or the solo
needs more runs. More scales. Less
scales. Soul. Needs
soul. Life. Who knows what.
Title? Words? Instrumental? Don’t know.
New tenant moved in, she won’t
close the window even though I told her
about the heating that could be better.
She says that the cold takes her
mind off things. Go figure.
Insanity resides in the thousand
tiny cracks of each day’s calm,
bare, drywashed walls, hiding
shoulder to shoulder.
Running electric solo – broken chords
Music is so subjective. I said
this the first time I picked up the harp,
now called the kithara. What
does it matter what we call things,
only that names fascinate me – the names
we give from what we know
to what we seek to know. Music is
that way: all that we call it is an attempt
to hold it still, to label its intriguing power
to compel. It still amazes me,
what a little practice can do.
If a cat and a woman journey
in perpendicular directions,
who has better luck?
Light and dark… Ha!
Two sides of the same coin,
okay. So they meet –
in the mi-iddle? The line
where they meet. Oh. The equator.
Really. Well. Very funny, I suppose.
She likes riddles but doesn’t seem bothered
when I don’t laugh, says ‘I didn’t
say they were all good ones.’
I do like puzzles, how they stand
for something beyond an interlocking
of syllables and shapes, an arrangement
of logical junctures and metaphor.
All it takes is thought, and the universe
splits open, spilling old mysteries
like pomegranate seeds. My motor skills,
on the other hand, are intermediary at best.
He is encouraging even though
you could expect me to have
had more practice than this.
G major progression
What do you call a Sphinx
with no name, with nothing
catlike save nine lifetimes
or more, and what is she waiting for?
Names do matter, which is why she
changes them like skins. Call her
by one of her choosing. She will insist
that they are all the same anyway.
Stage live recording – electric guitar intro
This solo shindig is not going well.
It would be easier if I knew
what the hell I’m trying to do,
like what am I writing, and why
doesn’t it ever play right?
Sounds like a question
only Lila would like.
My world has a little room for other things
but questions – sometimes I think my life
would fit neatly into the curve of a question mark,
curled like a dreaming feline, the answer
a perfect ellipse balanced on the very tail,
poised to be both full stop and fulcrum.
And yet he seems to think that
answers are something you look for,
when sometimes they are all we have
and it is their questions that we seek.
When it is almost too late.
That is when you will know
what you left behind, what you are
missing, what you should have
done but didn’t. Sometimes even
why you pretended not to know it.
When are answers born, and
what shapes do they take, that
confuse us and leave us waiting
on a platform for a train either
coming or going, nobody can tell?
Acoustic improv over G major progression
If curiosity kills the cat,
what keeps bringing it back to life?
I mean, there’s nothing wrong
with playing standards and covers
and all that good stuff – if you do it well –
but you’ll never find the piece exactly
matching what you have in mind.
My problem is that I’ll probably never
write it, either. Maybe
it’s just not supposed to exist.
On occasion it’s sheer luck,
but mostly it’s the power of knowledge:
knowing that like right and wrong,
life and death are only edges
on the same (imaginary) line.
Acoustic coffeehouse jazz duet
‘Gone to get birdcage.
Catch. What else do you need?’
Even her notes are cryptic.
‘You could have told me
something like “there is an injured thrush
on top of the fridge”,’ he says.
Now where, I tell him,
would be the fun in that, and what good
would it really have done you?
Unfurling like so many petals,
the soul appears to blossom
as it awakens, but do flowers
remember their dreams?
Rippling Dmin intro into Amaj
I half expected it to die,
that little bird, but it surprised me
and didn’t. Lila pulls me away
from the guitar, puts the cage in my hands,
tells me to ask it where I will go next.
When we open the door, it flaps
twice, experimenting, sweeps
past us, leaves a final burst of birdsong
hanging like a thread in the empty cage.
Flowers are like anything else – briefly
awake. Twisting to unfold, dreams
guide them into the waiting air.
In Greece, I watched once
as Calliope and her friends gathered
the pieces of her son. I found
his lyre, wondered – see, I cannot help
myself – if he, too, left an echo,
and who would inhale it to breathe sound
set free from mortal frames,
at once both the question and answer
we could not divine from his broken body.
Electric bending solo – Dmin in 3
What is it that climbs into the sky
to shake down the stars in a shower
to the earth’s floor, shouting in defiance
and celebration and gratitude, and why
does it afford so much joy?
I’m making this solo
up on the fly, as someone once said.
My fingers feel their way over these strings
but what I touch are edges and corners
of chords, picking slanting trails
through so much waiting music to land
feet first on a pendulum swinging back
into the part we all already know.
Electric Gmaj progression
Sometimes the most important thing
is to keep asking the question you don’t know
you’re asking. But sometimes the best thing
is realizing that the answer is already
in your hands, like a letter
waiting to be opened.
Answers aren’t always immediate. Some
questions don’t really even need them.
Fireworks, like fire,
need a spark – but little else – to soar.
For a little while the sky is filled
with manmade colours. For a little while
light is rain and rain is light, and we are
both unaware of when it will cease to be so,
and content to leave unanswered
that which is unasked.
Busy duet in Dmin
Do oracles gain anything
by obscuring their sight in half-truths?
If so, can anybody be paid to tell
half-lies about things they cannot know?
Busy duet in Dmin-Gmaj – stage recording
I tell her not to wait for me
to make headlines. Neither of us mentions plans,
or futures; there’ll be plenty of time for those
when they show up, and they will.
For now, the only ‘next’ is another set
of notes resting in the silence between
these strings, waiting for the unspoken
spaces they will settle into.
There could be no travelling
without the vastness of neither here nor there,
neither of which would exist
without the windows that permit us to know
that there is a ‘not here’ at all, and the roads that lead
away from here all start with a question,
paths paved with ‘what if’s, the process
of exchanging ‘here’ for ‘there’.
Rippling outro in Dmin
Which will we run out of
first: questions or answers?
1. Lila’s character is loosely based on the 9 Muses of arts. As the 10th muse, I elected to make her the patron of curiosity and questions.
2. Readers: E.A. (‘Question’), M.R. (Lila), S.J. (Sebastian)
3. Sound clips: S.J., B.H., S.