Still Spirited

Hard to believe it’s been 25 years since Nirvana released “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I still remember—and hopefully will never reach the point that I can forget—the moment I first heard it (which was a month or so before this official release and not long after my daughter was born). Different, difficult, better times.

“For Real” (Okkervil River)

Lyrics of the moment:

Some nights I thirst for real blood
For real knives
For real cries

[…]

Sometimes the blood from real cuts
Feels real nice
When it’s really mine

[…]

It’s just a drive into the dark stretch
Long stretch of night
Will really stretch this shaking mind
And this room, unlit, unheated
And the ceiling striped
And the dark black blinds

[…]

Cause there’s nothing quite like the blinding light
That curtains cast aside
And no attempt is made to explain away
The things that really, really, really, really, really are behind

You can’t hide

—from “For Real” by Okkervil River

When My Time Comes

This song has been in my head for months. No matter where I go, how far forward or back, I remain balanced on the razor edge of the knife.

“When My Time Comes”

There were moments of dreams
I was offered to save.
I lived less like a workhorse,
more like a slave.
I thought that one quick moment
that was noble or brave
would be worth the most of my life.

So I pointed my fingers
and shouted few quotes I knew,
as if something that’s written
should be taken as true.
But every path I had taken
and conclusion I drew
would put truth back under the knife.

And now the only piece of advice that continues to help is:
anyone that’s making anything new only breaks something else.

When my time comes,
When my time comes,

So I took what I wanted
and put it out of my reach.
I wanted to pay for my successes
with all my defeats.
And if Heaven was all
that was promised to me
why don’t I pray for death?

Now it seems like the unraveling
started too soon.
Now I’m sleeping in hallways
and I’m drinking perfume,
and I’m speaking to mirrors,
and I’m howling at moons,
while the worse and the
worse that it gets.

Oh you can judge the whole world on the sparkle that you think it lacks.
Yes, you can stare into the abyss, but it’s staring right back.

—Dawes
—from North Hills

Happy Birthday, Billie

Billie Holiday (by William Gottlieb)

It’s Billie Holiday’s birthday. She’d have been 100 today!

Birthday or very much the opposite, when I think about Holiday I inevitably think of Frank O’Hara’s famous poem.

“The Day Lady Died”

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
          I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

—Frank O’Hara
—from The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara