National Poetry Month: Poem #4

Sometimes I feel lost, like I don’t know my own voice.  Here is a poem about that feeling…



You stand in the middle

Of this hollow oval room

Waiting for your voice.


You have heard that voices

Come, like boomerangs,

Back in this type space.


But all that boomerangs

Back is the drum

Of frustrated fingers.  This


Must be West Texas;

Your voice stuck in some

Prairie dog’s hole.


Like Noah’s final dove,

You sent her out but

She never came back;


Found a new home

Nestled in the ear

Of some unborn child.


Top Ten Most Influential Musicians in My Life: #8

I don’t think I express how influential of a year 1996 was in my musical development.  What I can express is how grateful I am for that time.  Much like the paper airplanes I built during Math class, my musical sensibilities had floated for the better part of my life but were accelerating quicker than I would have liked.  I could barely hang on.

That year, my girlfriend of the time gave me Bush’s album “Razorblade Suitcase” right before my family took our annual road trip to Georgia to visit my Dad’s family.  From Putnam to Lookout Mountain, Gavin Rossdale’s voices guided me through the persistent questions of adolescence.  I couldn’t hear my parents talking through my disc-man headphones, but I’m pretty sure they were wondering what could make their middle child so quiet for such a long time.  I might have even missed the litany of family jokes that always accompanied our annual Christmastime pilgrimage.  Not that I cared at the time, those jokes were old by that point.  But now, as a parent, I don’t miss an opportunity to tell my family the same jokes I dismissed as “old fart-isms” as a preteen.  Those jokes are buoys that anchor me to a time when I needed a reminder to not take myself so seriously.  In retrospect, I have to say that “Razorblade Suitcase” was a much better gift that the one my girlfriend received, a big blue balloon that had been miraculously filled with tissue paper and a stuffed bear… Maybe that’s why we broke up soon after the Christmas break.  I’ll ask her on facebook someday.

1996 was a year of upheaval and transition for me.  Spiritually, I was asking deeper questions.  Physically, everything was shifting and changing.  Emotionally, I was in vertigo, most days in an existential tailspin.  It was the year I began high school.  It was also the year I discovered Punk Rock music.  Looking back, I have to admit that my first venture into punk rock was rather innocuous.  For some reason I purchased a copy of MXPX’s “pokinatcha.”  I’m pretty sure that the alum had something like 20 songs on it and timed in at a little under 30 minutes.  I’m not given to brevity generally, and I didn’t really get it at first.  But, each time I played the album I fell more in love with the simplicity and audacity of three guys playing four chords for 30 minutes and calling it music.  There’s much more to my punk rock story than this.  But, that album was where it all began for me.  So, if you ever wore plaid shorts, suspenders and strapped on your Chuck Taylors every morning, this one’s for you.

Top Ten Most Influential Musicians in My Life: #9

If you were to somehow uncover the yearbooks that spanned my years at Clack Middle School, you might think that I was going through some kind of identity crisis… which I was…

I was in middle school, within a few years of growing armpit hair (I was a late bloomer, what can I say 🙂

I spent my 7th grade year acclimatizing myself to the hip-hop culture that was prevalent at Clack Middle School; that is to say, I went to sleep every night listening to “Gansta’s Paradise” from the Dangerous Minds soundtrack that somehow got past my parent’s censors.  I was a real OG…

Then Eighth grade came along.  On the first day, I saw the coolest person I had ever seen waxing poetic with the ladies, making all the gents laugh and causing the hair on the coaches arms stand on end.  His name was Mark Hobbs, he had just moved to Abilene.  He had fire-engine red hair, parted in the middle and shaved on the sides.  He was cool.  But the coolest thing about him was the Ritz cracker shirt and baggy JNCO jeans he was wearing.  And, while I can’t confirm this, I’m pretty sure that Kurt Cobain’s visage appeared before me saying, “Dude.  You gotta get to know this guy.  He plays guitar…”

It turned out that Mark lived down the street from me and that he did indeed play the guitar.  Soon enough I found myself sitting on my front porch awkwardly cradling the Harmony guitar my mom and dad had bought me when I was eight.  The Christmas before I had been given a set of electronic drumsticks that were attached to a portable speaker that I attached to the elastic waistband of my jammers.  I would walk around for hours turning things like pots, pans and my Uncle Jim’s head into killer drum fills.  I’m pretty sure they thought the guitar would placate my desire to make a bunch of noise while saving the family noggins a bruise or two.  I’m sure they also thought said guitar might sit abandoned in my closet when I found out it actually took work to make the thing sound like music.  Then Mark came along, I dusted off the old six-string, and Mark went to work schooling me in the ways of Grunge and Industrial music.  The Cranberries led to Nirvana which led to Marilyn Manson which eventually led to a teacher/parent conference, which is another story all together.  That’s the year I really started playing music, writing my own songs, singing songs that were influenced by others but were birthed out of me.  That was also the year I realized that music, spiritual or secular in label, was all spiritual, that it moves people to feel, do and say things.

I recently reconnected with Mark on facebook.  While our lives have moved in different directions, I’m willing to bet that music still moves us both in similar ways.  It was Mark that introduced me to The Smashing Pumpkins, and I’m eternally grateful for that.  So, here is a video from number 9 on my list of Influential Musicians.  This music changed me and moves me to this day.  In many ways, I hope to evoke the same kind of hope, angst and beauty that this song evoked in me back when I thought novelty Tees and long stringy hair were the epitome of cool…

Top Ten Most Influential Musicians in My Life

My parents were missionaries, so I wasn’t introduced to good secular music until later in life.  John Denver was about as edgy as we got around the Palmer house, and I was fine with that.  I didn’t know any better.  Until we came back to the States on furlough when I was 6.  When my friends were talking about music, and I dropped the Psalty references, and all I heard was crickets, I knew I better figure out who this Bon Jovi was.  By the time we returned to Cypress, where my parents were doing some incredibly important work, it was as if the waves of American music had washed up on the shores of our Missionary Kid ears.  The next thing I knew, Aaron Sacco and I were listening to single cassettes of Bon Jovi, Michael Jackson, and, our favorite, Vanilla Ice.  By that point, I was sold.  Music wasn’t just about God anymore- it could also be about life.  Now that I think about it, those two subjects aren’t that far apart… in fact, they are intimately bound together.

So, as an homage to my spiritual and musical heritage, I want to begin my “Top Ten Musical Influences” list with a shout out to my mom and dad and the deep spiritual roots they have attempted to develop in my soul.  Get your fans ready, we’re about to go to church…

The Ballad (I’m Ready to Die): lyrics

Well I was born beneath the Magnolia tree

with the moon in my eyes, and with dust on my feet

and the taste of the Raven’s breath on my tongue.

My warm wet body was wrapped in the scraps of a quilt from my grandmother’s bed,

and my sisters have said that my poor mother cried as they laid me aside.

“Well, I’m ready to die.

Yea, I’m ready to die.

Cut the strings from my heart, cause I’m ready to fly.

I used to cry in the dark,

but now I’m guided by lights.

So cut the strings from my heart, cause I’m ready to die.”

Well, all I had to my name was my name,

my dreams and the wind at my back as I walked

down the center of town toward the distant call of a renegade train.

And as she passed on the outskirts of town

my soles clicked that tracks and my hands wrapped around

the merciless steal that I’d seen as a child,

that had hollered my name.

She said, “You ready to die?”

“Yeah, I’m ready to die.

So cut the strings from my heart, cause I’m ready to fly.

I used to run in the dark,

but now I’m running toward lights.

So cut the strings from my heart, cause I’m ready to die.”

Sister sun was shining her light

that was fading my dreams that used to burn bright,

and was burning a hole, like a young cigarette, through my paper-thin soul.

While brother moon was singing his song

the train was praying a dirge and our lives came undone

like the seams of a quilt.  Weary bones heard their words

and so they sang along.

They sang, “We’re ready to die.

Yeah, we’re ready to die.

Cut the strings from our hearts, cause we’re ready to fly.

We used to run in the dark.

Now we’re burning with light.

So cut the strings from our hearts, cause we’re ready to die.”

I was born again beneath the shade of a tree

with a woman beside, the pearl of my youth

with a voice like the wind on the wings of the dawn.

And in her voice there echoed a train,

and the innocent rain that fell from her lips

as she whispered a kiss-

it felt like a quilt and I heard my heart sing.

It sang, “I’m ready to die.

Yeah, I’m ready to die.

So cut the strings from my heart, cause I’m ready to fly.

I used to cry in the dark, but now I’m guided by light.

I was yours from the start so I’m ready to die.”

“The Breeze” now available for purchase

Most everyone loves getting mail, especially when you’ve been waiting for it your whole life like the packages I received this evening.  We came home to find some brand new copies of “The Breeze” waiting on our front porch.

If you’d like to purchase “The Breeze” and await some mail of your own… follow this link

Thanks a bunch!  enjoy!

From the Vault

Disney does this periodically…

grabs a “Classic” film from the vault, re-releases it to the clamoring masses, then shuts it back into the vault until Micky Mouse needs a new set of suspenders…

Well, you need to get while the getting is good, because I’m embarking on the same journey here.

You see, over the years, my musical talents and mistalents have been documented by folks that are close to me.  Each week, maybe on a Tuesday night, I’ll release one of these jewels from the “vault.”  These releases will generally be accompanied by copious amounts of twitter updates and facebook statii.  If you, my loyal (read occasional) reader so choose, you can view this rarity in it’s entirety here in this blog.  Then, after an unspecified amount of time (read forever), this little piece of history will be retired back into the vault.  So, enjoy this rendition of Open Mic Night, performed at the FIRST EVER Open Mic Night hosted by The Oaks College Community way back in 2006… you never know when it’s going to be locked up for good (though you may hope it someday is)…