On the Song “Dylan Thomas” and Comments on Ryhme

A few days ago I posted a brief review of the new record from Better Oblivion Community Center in which I wrote a little bit about the song “Dylan Thomas” from their record. In the 50 something hours since then I’ve listened to the song about 100 times, literally, which is a lot. So I thought I might have something more to say about it.

For the uninitiated (which is probably everyone reading this–after I posted my review a friend texted me a funny article from The Onion entitled “Study: No Two People Have Listened To Same Band Since 2003”), Better Oblivion Community Center is Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers. “Dylan Thomas” is the single, or at least the song they just played on Jimmy Kimmel. You still won’t know them.

The reason I want to write a little more about the song is it has a killer structure. The structure is based around a neat rhyme scheme with fabulous use of “near rhymes” and also around a see-saw in the verses between fairly pointed political commentary and apolitical hedonism. As with all interpretation, I can’t be sure that what I hear was intended, but what the hell–communication is what the listener does after all.

Now, a lot of songs, most, rhyme. That’s obvious. But not too many songs really hold up on the page as well, as poetry. I think “Dylan Thomas” does and I’d like to explore why.

Verse I:

It was quite early one morning
Hit me without warning
I went to hear the general speak
I was standing for the anthem
Banners all around him
Confetti made it hard to see

So the first verse clearly alludes to our political moment–it appears politically engaged to some extent. The reference to “the general” is redolent of South American politics (I am reminded of the fabulous Drugstore song “El President”). The rhyme scheme is tricky–it’s AABCC(D), where (d) “see” almost rhymes with “speak” in the delivery although the words don’t actually rhyme, instead being only vaguely alliterative.

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Jerome: A Poem

Note: This little poem is one of the first things I wrote that I liked–I wrote it in high school. At that time I was deeply influenced by limericks (both dirty and clean) and nonsense poetry like Edward Lear. I still love nonsense poetry. Like anything good, I have no idea where this kind of content come from.

Jerome:

In a glade near his home

Roamed a boy called Jerome

When he met with the sight of the devil

Who asked for his soul

In a Tupperware bowl

In a voice smug and typically level

Though of manner quite mild

The cunning wee child

Prepared a surprise for the devil

Who felt sorely deceived

When the soul he received

Belonged to the neighbor’s boy, Nevil

Pain is Deeper

Pain they say is deeper than the grave

I’ve heard that too, and if it’s pain you crave

Six feet under won’t do the trick

Sixty, six-hundred, six-thousand feet thick

Might be more your style

Don’t mind me; I’ll be here a while

Pain is a palliative for the soul

They told you different but the toll’s the toll

Pain is deeper than the grave

There’s only one soul you’re trying to save

Good luck I say, through the veils of tears

I know you’ve been at it for thousands of years

Poem for a Friend

Ann belle princess of the isles

The orbs whisper your name

Even if you’ve gotten piles

Of if you’re on the game

Buxom barmaid or bellicose barfly

Begs the inevitable question

Booze improves the poet’s eye

But ruins her digestion

Her uncle made a fortune

Cold calling clogs

And swamped a shocked surburbia

With plasticine polywogs

Downstream from the trust fund

You wile away your day

On alert for the bloke in the cummerbund

Who’ll provide the perfect lay

We desire to be known, desire to be seen

It’s the deepest human condition

I don’t know where you are, much less where you’ve been

All that’s left, babe, is volition

Some Things I’ve Learned by 44: A Poem

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There’s a lot I don’t know

and a few things I might

life’s a hell of a show

a bit tough to get right

well, some folks they want you

and other folks don’t

some folks they will

and other folks won’t

you’ll get plenty of chances

you’ll blow the best part

you’ll twirl at some dances

you’ll get shot through the heart

some folks you can trust

up to a point, more or less

others? trust’s a bust

they’ll split the joint, leave a mess

try and tell the truth

you’ll take blow after blow

don’t tell the truth and

no one’ll save your soul

anything’s possible, in dreams

who’s better than you?

everyone, it seems

but it just isn’t true

they’re all full of bull

faking til’ they make it

so just push when they pull

baby stand when they sit

cause no one knows shit

and everything’s thin

I’ve been around a bit

a never was, a has-been

but that ain’t you baby

it ain’t me anymore

no one can save me

I’ve outlasted the war

so all you got is today

and maybe not that

that’s all I’ve got to say

take the meat, leave the fat.

FIN

The Respectable Man: A Poem

Here on thekyotokibbitzer we are continuing to post our older poetry. There aren’t many more, so this little thread will be finished pretty soon.
Today’s poem is called “The Respectable Man.” I wrote it when I was in my twenties and it shows. I guess it is sort of my version of a punk tune. Here it is for y’all:

The respectable man
reflects if he can
but the world won’t wait for reflectors
the respectable man
sits on the can
sits on the board of directors

The respectable man
hawks wares to the clan
who cannot tell shit from shinola
the respectable man
sees a water ban
and irrigates crops with a cola

The respectable man
works on his tan
en route to his room at the Hilton
the respectable man
is pimping a plan
with robust tax-giveaways built-in

The respectable man
spits on his hands
and scurries his way up the ladder
the respectable man
looks over the land
and respectfully empties his bladder

An Open Book: A Poem

Today on thekyotokibbitzer we are continuing with our excavation of the poetry on our first blog. As stated, we didn’t really know what we were doing when the blog kicked off, however one way or another some interested, and perhaps interesting, folks came around and contributed to the action. On of these was young Micheal Lyon, who I hear is still alive and kicking. Good on ya’ Mike.

A student in the English class of one John Innes, Mr. Lyon heard some stories in which I was included and these appear to have struck a chord. We wish to state, without equivocation, that all these stories are pure fiction. The purest.

Nonetheless, there is, as they say, perhaps “something of the spirit” in M. Lyon’s salvo and my subsequent response. In the interest of having our b-sides in print we are re-publishing the original piece in its entirety here. It’s an oldie, and a goodie.

Here’s the original:

Editor’s Note: For reasons passing understanding, one M. Lyon has decided that Mr. Thomas is a fit subject for a project in romanticization. To his great credit, he sent me a request for information in verse. I have posted his request and my response.
“M. Lyon‘s Project”
M. Lyon
Pt. I
I heard a legend of a man,
a man who was quite great.
He is the focal point of my master plan,
and the reason I’ve cleaned my academic slate.
I once heard he lived in a closet for a year;
only appearing at 4.
This mere fact made my purpose clear,
I must write fiction until I simply can write no more.
Pt.II
Yet there is a barrier in my path
simple lack of facts.
I need to know some info,
on a thing about your high school days.
I’ve abandoned my pattern,
and probably my meter,
but who gives a crap,
I’m just trying to get some facts.
Did you ever toss a man in a river?
perhaps on his birthday?
In freezing cold Washington,
on a Thursday? Tuesday? Maybe never?
Who’s to say?
All I know is this:
A story is brewing,
about a man who graduated in linen.
The story will forever go incomplete,
if I cannot muster some details.
About your senior year of high school.

Note: This is my response to Mr. Lyon’s project.

“An Open Book”
M.S. Thomas


Not really in the mood
but you’ll think me quite rude
if I don’t make a reply
around me on the plane
folks eat, are entertained
no one’s writing save I

So I’ll take a look back
to days at the dog track
where I ended up by mistake
thought we could beat the odds
just silly teenage sods
there was no money to make

I know not if J.I.
has spun a pack of lies
concerning my personhood
Yes, I wrote poems for girls
who told me they were pearls
ah–but they weren’t any good

About a cold river,
+ the rest of his quiver
of myths and exaggerations
Well…if someone was shoved
it was done out of love
or of congratulations

So to upstate New York
in a trenchcoat–what a dork
but the world took pity
the life there was fine
but naught was on the line
should have gone to the city

I did two things quite well,
needing something to sell
I wrote brilliant excuses
‘bout ridiculous capers,
couldn’t finish my papers
I claimed aces, held dueces

My second great skill
is one I hold still
I fell for crazy ladies
locals, Russians, and Turks
they all drove me beserk
with a boatload of maybes

Four years in the dorms
and countless reforms
led to little of note
I left sans a sob
a plan or a job
and without my trenchcoat

~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~

Here was M. Lyon’s response to my response to his project.

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Half Hours on Earth: A Poem

Singapore, October 2018.

Over at @kyotokibbitzer on Periscope we like to “play the hits,” as any self-respecting radio station should. New content is, I promise, on the way soon, however in the meantime we are playing not so much the hits but rather the B-sides from my first blog Classical Sympathies. On Sympathies the longer pieces of linguistic anthropology got the most attention, followed probably by the pieces on the film My Dinner with Andre. There was some original poetry on the site as well, some of my own and some from talented contributors. It is, in my opinion, all worth looking back at.

Here is “Half Hours on Earth,” which I wrote in Auckland in 2009. There are a lot of mussels served in Auckland, incidentally.

The theme is pretty obvious; the poem is about an encounter, or, more precisely, an event, during which time, for me, compressed itself almost to a standstill. You have probably had this experience if you have been knocked of your bicycle by a car or something like that. When this happens over a half-hour, that’s a bit of a different guy.

Anyway, here is the poem, unchanged since it was written in 2009. I’ve always loved a good b-side. Hell, I even like the bad ones.

The quality of experience in half hours
is not uniform.
Some half hours are simply wasted
in others, something occurs
and leads into something else.
Other half hours pass quickly
they are maintenance,
but leave little residue.

Half hours on earth
what are they worth?
I don’t know.”

With the occasional half hour
something actually happens,
in the Raymond Carver sense,
something that matters.
The air is charged and thin,
butterflies roil one’s viscera
and something is on the line.

Half hours on earth
what are they worth?”

These electric half hours
even those isolated in time
are frightening, or better
giddily upsetting, and dangerous.
They sear themselves into the memory
more–they ripple the fabric of the cosmos.

Half hours on earth.”

The Process Has a Point of View: A Poem

This little ditty comes from my first blog, which was called “Classical Sympathies.” It is called “the process has a point of view.”  When I started Sympathies, I didn’t really know what I was doing.  I still don’t.

the process has a point of view
the process has a plan
it consecrates opinion
of the group or of the man
the process can be tampered with
but one must take great pains
to regard the ghouls that process fronts for
ghouls weighted down with chains
each time we wantonly with process toy
one chain process doth loose
if the ghouls become untethered
we have ourselves cooked goose
blood rites, human sacrifice, motions carried
parliamentary procedures of every kind
serve well to prettify men’s base designs
but their rigidity may insult the mind
so by all means make your end run around
the process, subvert the stated order, bring fresh
thinking but beware the ghouls of process
which will claim their pound of flesh
or better yet submit to process and to “the rules”
establish your credentials and sanctify intent
until you see that form is but an empty suit
and process, when respected, can be bent