Quintessence

Nick Masesso, Jr.

When the man

and the woman

arrived at the party

together

they never

kissed or hugged

or held hands like lovers

yet something electric

radiated

between them.

The people noticed

that the room became

a little brighter

and they saw that she

was very protective of him

and he

was very protective of her

and their emotions

seemed exposed

on their very skin

and appeared to run

ancient and deep.

When they looked

at each other

their knowing smiles

glowed a regal purple.

Their names

when spoken together

seemed like something

out of Shakespeare.

The energy that flowed

between them

was both electric

and loving

and familial

but too intense

for brother and sister.

No cross words

ever passed between them

as if they held their caring

which appeared strong;

fragile and precious.

When they left

the room became

a little darker

and duller

and more ordinary

and the…

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A Drum is A Woman

“Give me the beat boys and free my soul; I wanna get lost in your rock n’ roll – and drift away”. Drift Away – Written by Mentor Williams – popularized by Dobie Gray.

Big Pauli and me skip-tracing a venue he’d told about somewhere in the bowls of downtown Oakland late that evening; clicking our Italian heels across the concrete sidewalk on a warm, damp, narcotic American inner-city night, glided under a bruised autumn sky crackling with atmosphere; the energy sending lighting bolts scurrying above our heads and sparks beneath our feet. We rambled serpentine passed rundown warehouses in Oaktown Cripps territory; Asian kids; hip-hop rappers with one foot in their graves and beefing mightily with the premiere Black gang, the 11 Five Mob; kept our heads on a swivel.

The music seeping from the storefront styled rat trap building cascaded; enveloping us in the rapture of a celestial choir; a sense impression causing me to imagine what it sounded like in heaven. The ecstasy to my ear lifted me nearly off my feet. I’d never felt an auditory sensation so all-encompassing, so movingly beautiful. We ducked inside to find a beatnik/hippie style flop, a homeless squat overrun with piles of personal effects from beings either dead or dying. It smelled like your grandmothers closet.

There was a stage of sorts at the end upon which rested a full size standing Harp behind which stood a beautiful angelic looking black girl dressed in an elaborate costume that made me conclude, from the quality of her play, she had just left a gig and was here to jam. Beside her rested her protegé; probably her boyfriend. I couldn’t tell. He had a fine-looking axe which confirmed for me they were probably professional musicians.

His guitar sang a twang perfectly accompanying her Harp. There was a microphone, an amp, speakers, a drum set and the like and sitting in front of it all a magnificent conga drum that’s hide stood just a bit above crotch high on me. I’d always wanted one long as I could remember since for reasons unbeknownst to me I was a born percussionist. Whatever it took to be that I was. I could always play. Somehow my inner workings had a mainline that tapped right into the beat; that first sound man communicated with; the drum; that primal reggae beat.

Pauli, Oakland’s answer to Harry Connick Jr., harbored fantastical visions of being the next Bobbie Darin modern jazz singer and truth be told wasnt half bad, grabbed the mic. I settled behind the Conga drum. The angel played, the guitar blended in and once I got a taste of what they were up to let my drum sing. Paulie launch into some Billy Holliday standard. Man, we waggled and dangled for what seemed an hour or more and once we grokked each other the angel Harpist asked me to open up and for the rest of the band to follow.

A few minutes in I guess it was I vanished into some space, some sanctum santorum. I was gone. The drum played itself or so it seemed. I couldnt hear a thing but I could feel it; the beat, the rhythm, the pulsing of some invisible cyclical that emanated from the earths center; a secret rhythm of the saints, the sacred beat of the universe flowed through me.

To this day I can’t tell you how long that Jam lasted but when we stopped like on cue I was saturated, soaked in sweat and the pain in my swollen fingers threatening to burst into a bloody mess consumed. I stripped off my shirt and undershirt and slopped them down on a chair. Our impresario, the angelic harpist, began to introduce the band, beginning with herself, the guitar player, a drummer who’d stepped in while I was trance-simpled out and then Big Pauli. All received what I thought to be above average applause.

I was getting a bit nervous while also completely exhausted and calmed out which took off the edge when she asked my name and I gave it. I didn’t know what I’d played so I kinda hung my head a bit a shuffled about like I’d dropped something when I heard “And Nick on Conga”. Just as quick the beast sprung as one, the assembled multitudes, numbering maybe 25 souls, erupted in applause. I can’t tell you what their faces looked like at that moment since being so flabbergasted I couldn’t manage the courage to look at them. The appreciative noise went on for a while. I’m pretty sure they were standing. It’s maybe the only time I’ve ever felt embarrassed. Anyway; that was my musical moment.

I said all that to say this. Yesterday the UPS man delivered to my door the spitting image of that Conga drum; a gift from my brother Big Pauli. Wow! I set it up carefully and ever since I’ve walked by it, positioned center most in my den, and with each pass I caress her buffalo skin top; treating her like a wild animal – letting her know she is safe and soon will be set free; to sing, to play, to release.

A drum is a woman.

Indian Summer 2016

“The Indian Summer of life should be a little sunny and a little sad, like the season; infinite in wealth and depth of tone, but never hustled”. – Henry Adams

Returning to my comfort station, reclining as calm and safe as a man watching a snow storm from his fireplace, resplendent in my throne as form-fitting as a dentist’s chair; the Technicolor movie that never ends burns outside my writers window; bringing me once again to a level of consciousness and sense of detail rarely met. The weather seer on the magic box tells me this very day brings forth the peak of Fall’s funeral colors.

Autumn leaves empty of promise as a woman past the magic of birth cascade choreographed in a wonderland as quiet as asylum walls, yet hot as the boiler room of the damned; death colored egg yolk yellow and shot through with veins as red as Gods blood rainbow arcs as colorful as a shower of dying clowns.

They flutter, cut loose and fly in somnambulist vertigo exhaustion; oscillating on the almighty hawks reaper winds; looking like pixie magic carpets; organic meteor showers in this curious early evening; creating a musical serenade of tiny organic castanets inside north-lands mystical Peter Pan Neverland forest; then land in quiet triumph. Wood smoke clings to a darkened moonless sky like a quivering mist shaking in its tilt above and across a glass smooth lake.

Another more common death notice arrived across the wire today; my Muse, most dear to me, robed in colors soft pink and regal purple, is feeling the loss of one most dear to her. Though channeling the bereavement, nonplussed, she is comforted in the knowledge that every description of the end was never other than glorious. I will save a leaf or two in memory of this years last interment procession and place in them the memory of their best days, as I hope the amulet I sent her will assuage the injury and immortalize the sad event; elevating both their status to symbolic yet sacred sarcophagus.

The moment speaks an echoing acoustic truth; as above so below. The last chapter of Fall’s story mimics our own, or so we hope; that like natures end-of-days cycle we too, in our last evolution, will rush forth most musical and magnificently colored in our ending hours. Snakes shed their skin and stay; trees release their leaves yet still breathe and we jettison our flesh and blood while our soul essence linger. This Indian summer is the perfect time for the rewards of that esoteric existential wondering.

In this cycle of life, death and rebirth the deeds we leave behind are the steps of the dance we taught our brothers and sisters; they stay as rhythms they will never lose. We celebrate souls that pass to the other side in the same way we celebrate Indian summer;  just another life form bound by the rules of nature.

Memoriam

Nick Masesso, Jr.

“There are women and women and, some hold you tight; while some keep you counting, stars in the night”  – Come Down in Time – Bernie Taupin

There’s a girl who lives in the north country of California; an eco-village of recyclers, compost turners and organic lifestylers, who united with me for a time back in the day. She was the only one of the élite women that affixed her heart to mine over this lifetime, and even though we shared the most intimate of hours, with whom I could never find purchase. Even in our most intimate hours there sat between us a kind of violence even in our ardent love-making. She remains to this day an impregnable force, like a freight train, whose gears I could not convince to yield, whose machinery chewed me up every time I tried. I was left to simply buy the…

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Harvest Moon 2016

 “Autumn is the year’s last, loveliest smile.” ― William Cullen Bryant

Surfing ever-deepening grooves carved in this country road by repetitious smoothing from my extremely low-frequency sounding spaceship tires, I zone into my own private symphonic opera. A humongous full moon meets myhigh beams and swallows the horizon. Pitch dark street light free ribbons of black asphalt snake along narrow paths to home and back separating the wild from the man-made world. By their grace I live in this dirt and courage wilderness.

I wave, as is the custom here, to the other spacemen travelers inhabiting our lifeline corridor as we whiz past each other with that all too familiar catatonic stare that monotony turns all commuters faces into; a kind of crazy, irrational drunkard swoon that seems to us all too rational. We are compatible complaints; dutifully fulfilling our social contract and coloring safely inside the lines.

Our axis rotating planet is orderly and slowly releasing its summer soul; producing more dark each day than light. In the murmuring twilight the gloaming summer is lifting her skirt. Summers death rattle beckons the underbrush and she begins to whisper as seductive and dangerous as a woman’s breath in the throes of passion. The sun begins to fall faster and everything seems to take on the sighing autumnal ember colors of all the sadness there ever was.

The pumpkins appear overnight, lined up and stacked in pyramids of orange and white like harmless cannon shells strategically set along highway shoulders for some impending artillery battle. Battalions of corn stalks surround them and us and everything for more miles than eyes can see. They are zombies, stoically awaiting the farmer’s murderous front row cultivators, threshers that mutilate then bury the detritus that once winter ferments will resurrect. A crisp cool Canadian breeze foretells fortune tales of fall.

Flowers fade, fruits flourish and fresh vegetable Bodega glisten with a luster from the sky. You can feel the baby’s breath of winter. Harvest moon is the fullness of life. Leaves turn red on their last days full of life and color them beautiful in death as they abandon the twigs that sympathize with their decay. Albert Camus opined that autumn is a second spring. But the migrating geese and me agree; we put distance between ourselves and funerals.

It’s a Paul Bunyan land of ballgames and barbecues here; a feast of Walden Pond and Lake Woebegone. The thousand little compromises we make every day that eventually add up to the loss of ourselves, that decayed stench of hollowness, disappears. This life to death with beauty dance is the real thing. Welcome to Pleasantville, USA.