Thursday, December 16, 2010


Sometime during the next to last relapse you notice
that blood is not something you're willing to give up easily.
Still, when it happens, it happens. They say: stress-related.
Your last fight with your family over some holiday drama
that you created anyway, by expecting it to be there when
it really wasn't. Some change in weather, some turn of light,
a phrase spoken out of the mouth's side, not wondering
who overhears. Who indeed. When it's cold all the bees
are gone. Cactus freeze too; but then, they never mind, they endure.
When you've got that needle in your arm again, not the needle
that gets you high, the needle that keeps you alive another two
months, there's not much left. If you played guitar, it would
be a strum up, a pull down, a drag along the strings to make
them roar and sigh. If you played guitar, which you don't; never
wanted to do like everyone else, just one more garage hack.
If you played trombone, it would be a slow jazz solo that builds
a ladder to the rooftop, and up into the sky, masoning a long line
of mellow tones making an attitude, a movie, a painting.
Your scalp on fire with music.

Make that needle dance, tap your feet, tap your fingers
on the reclined wheelchair arm. Don't be afraid to feel idiotic. Bombs are
going off. You fall sideways through the drywall, singing.
And there will be blood. The new normal. Are you a writer,
a maker, or just another player, just another garage guitarist.
Blood carbonates in your veins, mixed with new inputs, the machine gun
riff of saline fixative like grout in the walls of new apartments.
Like those half-built condos across the former wheatfield, where
the most important thing to do was climb high up the see-through
stairs, get naked, and press bodies together with the neighbor boy,
a summer of being fully alive, fully present, fully in the pound
of your blood. Nothing on your skin but sweat and sunlight, the blood
in your flesh moving ever faster, ever louder. Its own kind of music.
Make that needle dance. The tape turns on the spindle, echoing back
across a long room of shining lights: be they elven glows, be they the LEDs
of a mixing board, be they candles scented with beeswax and sweat,
they must run, they must turn the wheel. Now pick up the bass,
the real foundation, bass like the steady pulse of the world's heart.
Bigger than anything. Music that runs in the blood.
Now the river runs red again, after the long climb, the cliffs slippery
with blood and rain, and bodies float downstream with noon's tides.
Don't give a damn if the bucket's full of crabs. Make that needle dance.
Somewhere in the absolute far-away voices chorus. Ringing down
long halls, storytelling. What keeps music alive but the love of doing it?
It pumps the blood.

     Play until your fingers bleed on the strings,
slippery, electric hot. Play until you don't care how much blood you shed
last week, days of blues and hurt passing like blizzards and coal.
Play out the long cable, the tubing that puts life into your arm,
pushing metal, pushing skin, pulsing with the blood singing in your temples
as you spend your last ounce on pounding out the chords till dawn.
Spend yourself fearlessly to the end of your blood.
Squeeze out last drops from the wizard's wellstone. Make damp walls drip
with slow throb and ruin. Save nothing for unlikely revivals. Stir it now.
Make that needle dance. The VUs bang against the red line as
the bass pounds through coagulated walls. Slow seep tubing into
your veins thistles with chemical fire. Anything to stop the bleeding.
For two more months you'll be continued; if you miss a date, you're down
the drain with the rest of nothing. So pump the blood. Feel that naked
pulse all through your body, pounding of music in flesh,
in the sibilant, fired blood.

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Blogger Elisabeth said...

What a poem Art. Your imagination fires me up, all that blood and music, all those possibilities. The whole time reading this I'm left with a feeling that soon something terrible might happen and yet in the end it doesn't. In the end it's jubilant - all that blood pulsing and gushing and rushing through your musical veins. Thanks.

5:29 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

"The whole time reading this I'm left with a feeling that soon something terrible might happen and yet in the end it doesn't."

That describes exactly how I feel medically, pretty much every day. Thanks for the insightful comment.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous larry cops said...

I remember you..I thank you for being a part of my life Art.
You, along with Al, Cristine,and Dick made my last decade. Thanks.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...


Great to hear from you! I was thinking about you the other day. And not too long ago I was trying to tell a city boy about them skeeter plews; he didn't get it, but oh well.

Hope you're doing well up there in the North!

11:33 AM  

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