#Blogtoberfest Day 11: Poetry-Inspired Lyrics

The Flame, Leonard Cohen’s last book of poetry (and more), arrives on Friday. I can’t wait to read it, especially after reading some of the poems in the sample. I got the hard cover because some books should be read in print.

I love that his songs started out as poems. My first song submitted for professional feedback to a NY Broadway composer started out as a poem and he led me down the path to making it a song.

In Nashville, “writing to title” co-write sessions are scheduled – they have nothing to do with poetry but the good news is everybody in the room gets songwriter credit. (Two NSAI mentors loved one of my “hooks” but somehow my story wasn’t the usual Nashville story and it didn’t go anywhere).

In Confessions of a Serial Songwriter by Shelly Peiken, she laments today’s songwriter in L.A. being relegated to “topliner” – the person who is called in to write the melody or lyric or maybe just a hook or phrase. The “producer” provides the “backing track” and gets 50% of writing credit and the rest is divvied up according to some sort of formula.

But you know what? This is what you get when a society decides that humans can be created the same way – sperm donor meets egg donor meets surrogate and somehow the couple who purchases all of this genetic material becomes the “parents” and a “family” is created.

I don’t see much difference in creating a human and in creating a song today. Very sad with many consequences with this type of thinking. But that’s the world people have shouted into being. At least for now. I pray that people will come to their senses some day.

Blogging the Grief (#poem)

Tropical air breathing
Lifts me when I’m grieving
The death certificate arriving
Reminds me I’m alive and thriving

Those around me ignoring
Dismissing me like that floors me
I was here before them
Who I am is without shame

Their secrets they hide
Until the day they died
They dumped on me
Instead of taking responsibility

Emotions overcome my brain
Their reactions are so lame
Where do I take this grief inside
Do what I always do, blog it online

Attack, deny like mixing a song
Delay, if need be, anything to not be wrong
Like the phoenix rising from the dust
I stand tall and in God I trust

The Day I Died

According to my mother, I died the day she was called to school to speak to a counselor in my junior year of high school after moving from sunny Southern California to the gloomy, rainy, dreary grey skies of Oregon. She yanked me out of school, scaring me half out of my mind. I asked, “What’s wrong?”

She said, “Somebody died!”

My heart thundered in my ears as my fear escalated. I asked, “Who?”

“You!” she said with force in that dramatic way of hers when she wanted to control a situation.

The truth is, my English teacher and I had had a misunderstanding about the due dates of a particular project. I thought I was supposed to hand in the paper at the end, but, according to her, I hadn’t been handing in my weekly papers. I had no idea it was supposed to be weekly. How I could have misunderstood that, I’ll never know, because I was an “A” Honor Roll student. This was a new progressive school, unlike any I’d known before, with study periods sprinkled throughout the day in various study nooks. It made sense to me that the project was due at the end of the term – like my science paper.

The situation escalated when the school counselor called my mother in to meet with him. Mind you, none of this was known to me until the day my mother yanked me out of school, declaring my death. The counselor supposedly said, “When a student changes this much in a short amount of time, they’re usually on drugs.”

Drugs? Now I was supposed to be on drugs due to a misunderstanding? Drugs were the last thing on my mind. This was the late ’60s/early ’70s when adults were hyper watchful and suspicious about kids taking drugs. Of course, I only have my mother’s word for this conversation. As I would discover much, much later in life, it was difficult to know the truth about anything because she lied even when there was no reason to lie.

But she might be right about that moment being the day I died, because, honestly, I think I died as soon as she’d decided to leave our beautiful new home in Orange County, California where I had the best year of my life. As editor-in-chief of the school yearbook in the first graduating class, I had many privileges such as being the first editor and naming the yearbook, singing in the choir, and even featured as a soloist in the spring program. Life was looking pretty rosy in that moment.

Not only did we leave this beautiful home, friends, and family and school, but we moved to Oregon and lived in an old 1930s farm house where the kids’ bedrooms were all upstairs where there was no heat. My small container of water I kept for my eye liner froze over. That’s how cold it was.

Not to mention our enrollment in her mother’s religious cult (Jehovah’s Witnesses) where we gave up birthdays, Christmas, in fact, all holidays had to go plus that door-to-door pushing JW magazines with the threat of total destruction at Armageddon, thereby, avoiding “bad associations” (“worldly” friends at school) and the places they hung out (the choir, and all school activities beyond the required). And then there were the male chauvinistic elders who policed our behavior. Eventually, I was totally indoctrinated.

But God had plans to turn things around for me. Fast forward twenty-five years when I met a lovely Christian man at work and we both converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church in Cupertino, California and experienced the most amazing Sacramental Orthodox wedding.

When I informed my mother of this decision, she called me at work (again, for the most dramatic effect), and said she’d called to “Say good-bye.” As a Jehovah’s Witness, she officially would have to “shun” me. Of course, she admitted later that she never really believed in the religion and didn’t consider herself spiritual at all. I concluded it was more of a crutch, a tool to control, than it was any deeply held religious beliefs.

From that moment on, I set out on a journey to find the truth about so many things, including my biological father, which led to discovering the type of person my mother really was. Looking back, I see that, not only did she deprive me of my father and the rest of that side of the family who all lived within thirty minutes of our home, but then she took me completely away from the place I called home, leaving behind everything that was important to me.

Much later I would discover there’s a name for mothers like that and the daughters who must endure their cruelty. They’re called “Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers.” or DONM. We hear the word “narcissist” tossed around lightly on social media these days but this is something far more than what we might think. One book I recommend is “Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistc  Mothers.”

Soon after I met my father, I wrote about meeting my father for the first time and the lessons learned in Myths of the Fatherless but often my fiction has a similar theme. One work in progress is called “She’s Not That Good.” I’m also working on an album I’m calling, “Fathers and Other Strangers.”

So my real life didn’t end at all back then, but the real life I was supposed to live just began.

 

John Madison (#poem)

No planes, no trains, just automobiles
A giant collage of a Ferris wheel
Round and round goes the track
Whirring dervishes give no slack

Rum runners scurry in the night
Grandpa’s Ford hides the blight
Carving instruments in the day
Passing down music to those without say

Sleepless twilight trumpets my head
Clock ticking and nights I now dread
Cats howling in time like a drum
Dancing on pillows their paws do strum

Callings have consequences, not all are good
Great grandpa makes music in hands with wood
Would he smile or be surprised
To know that I, a descendant of John Madison, am now alive?

The Promised Land (#poem)

Tiny little towns lie in the Valley paved with gold
Pickup trucks and cowboy boots lined with filth
Rickety shacks and outdoor houses she didn’t have to choose
Coats catching fire, coffee burns or so I’ve been told

Two families from the same place take different paths to the Promised Land
One chose north, the other chose south, but it didn’t really matter
Picking fruit or Hollywoodland, mine chose the latter
I ended up with the one that was fake, but I played in the sand and got a nice tan

Too young to understand what true love is, it’s not for me to say
It’s not what I would have wanted for her, but others wouldn’t have changed a thing
It’s their version of the Promised Land of sun and Golden grain
Muscle beach, curly hair, eyes of blue, and a quick roll in the hay

They hold on tight to the lie he didn’t give her a ring
Those are the same who like to say I have no legitimate claim
This is about my life, I say, this is not some twisted game
Close to my heart for so very long, it’s my God-given dream

California Screaming (#poem)

Tom Petty sings about it, where life is messy
A world without dads and cold spaghetti
The California dream has its limitations
In a land of make believe and illusions

They looked at me with awe and envy
I couldn’t complain, every day was Thanksgiving
Seen through their eyes beyond their reach
Me living a perfect life at the beach

It came as a surprise when I realized
My dad was not my dad but a dad in disguise
I had to smile and hide my real feelings
Wondering about my “real” dad and if I had other siblings

Years later I found him with other children
They didn’t want to know me for I had been hidden
Don’t believe what they say when you’re California dreaming
You might just end up California screaming

Choices (#poem)

Swollen breasts strain against a t-shirt
Ripe with motherhood questioning the future
Young girl’s fingers caressing the keyboard
Pimping music like a surgeon’s suture

Life changing moments in an instant
Can be swept away as if they never existed
To have and to hold as life unfolds
When your instincts scream “go, go, go!”

Choices we make can be a burden
When chasing dreams, escaping the warden
When you lose your way in the dark of night
Accept the gift in the flickering light

 

Prime Country Music

One of my favorite stations on Sirius XM is Prime Country – the best of country music from the 80s and 90s. Well, I can personally testify about the power of country music from the 90s. That’s when just about every restaurant/bar in the San Francisco Bay Area had a night set aside for country dancing. I was also stepping out into freedom from my ex.

I’ll never forget that glorious feeling of walking into that bar in Vallejo with a friend during our company picnic at what was once known as Marine World/Africa USA when it was located near Redwood Shores (hubby and I lived there after that land was developed – the best part of the Bay Area, IMHO). Now it’s called “Six Flags Discovery Kingdom” of all things. Check out this lament.

Anyway, I walked into the bar and Garth Brooks was belting out Friends in Low Places and the guys were shaking their bootie – lol!

Speaking of Brooks, there was this one guy at work who loved country dancing – used to dance at the Saddle Rack once or twice a week with his friend Mark. One night they had a celebrity look-alike contest and the two of them went up as “Brooks & Dunn.” Well, that was pretty funny because my name back then was Kathy Brooks and my friend’s name was Kosan Dunn and when people saw us, they said, “Here come Brooks & Dunn!” lol! Anyway, I married the guy who went as Brooks. 🙂

So, of course, I decided I had to use “Brooks & Dunn” as my blog header now that I’m adding music to my writing studio. Not just any music but country music in particular. It tells the kind of stories I like to tell – you know, “3 Chords and the Truth.”

I love most kinds of music but have been a big country music fan for a long time. My cousin used to perform and some said she sounded like Wynona Judd. My uncle thought we could have had a country music band – for sure, if I’d been around back then. 🙂

So Brooks & Dunn is a big favorite. Here’s one of my favorite songs, I’ll Never Forgive My Heart:

So I’ve been thinking about writing a new melody for my song “Candy Apple Red” – the one I wrote for songwriting class isn’t really working – I got good marks on the lyrics but I know the melody isn’t right. So I was thinking, what kind of song out there has lyrics like this song – maybe that’ll inspire a new melody. And then I hit on “Play Something Country” – compare their opening lyrics with mine and sing along with this tune.

 Play Something Country

Yes, she blew through the door like TNT,
Put her hand on her hip, pointed a finger at me.

Candy Apple Red

You strutted into class like you had nothing to lose,
He was staring at your ass, I was singing the blues.

(Okay, so maybe that second line was inspired by a line in “Real Women Wear Red” – “Are you staring at my ass?” – lol!)

Musicianship

Wow! Today is a big blogging day. I caught up with weekend topics and now today I got word that I passed “Developing Your Musicianship.” A passing grade was 70% and I got 112% – woo hoo!

I’m still in the throes of songwriting and for the final assignment, I have to do more work on last week’s song to make it either front heavy or back heavy. While I’m at it, I’m thinking I’d like a new melody, maybe something country. Or maybe that’ll be the next song.

I’m so new at this and I love so many music genres that I don’t really know my songwriting direction. I’d love to join the local chapter of the Nashville Songwriter’s Association so I might try my hand at some country tunes – some of these today, like Black Roses, really don’t sound all that traditional so that might work.

In the meantime, Uncle Steven wished Ronnie Dunn a happy birthday (yesterday) and that sparked my own memories of Brooks & Dunn back in the 90s. This is what I posted on Facebook:

Back in the 90s when Country music was hot and Rich was the king of country dancing and my last name was Brooks and my friend’s was Dunn, yes, we were called “Brooks & Dunn.” Happy birthday, Ronnie Dunn!

Nashville Season Finale: It Ain’t Yours to Throw Away

Finally! This was the Nashville finale I’ve been waiting for. After last week’s happy family scene with Deacon, Maddie, and Rayna, onlooker Luke Wheeler wasn’t about to let that happen. He proposed to Rayna onstage.

Well, Deacon wasn’t about to let hat happen, either, without a fight so he marched on over to Rayna’s house and said, “I’d like to congratulate you and wish you every happiness… I’d like to, but I can’t.” Yes!!!

And then when Scarlett was about to leave town, Gunnar gave her a gift and it was this song, reminding her that she can’t just throw it away. This is so awesome!

I love this show and so happy it’s been renewed. But I have to ask myself a question as an aspiring songwriter, why is it that a country music show set in Nashville is the one that gets the father/daughter reunion story and nobody else in the world seems to? There was also prayer in the finale. Something to think about..

Should I be focusing on writing country music? Thankfully, most of the music is more about attitude that traditional country music and that part suits me perfectly.