Sunday, August 13, 2017


We return to Sunday music with this month’s featured artist, jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby.

Today’s selection is Ashby’s composition “Games” from her 1968 Cadet release, Afro-Harping. This album features Ashby backed by an apparently unknown orchestra (including theremin on some cuts). Allmusic reviewer Ron Wynn describes Afro-Harping as “the best and most complete album done by jazz harpist …Dorothy Ashby”; Joshua Weiner, writing for the all about jazz site finds the album more a product of its particular time, a proto example of acid jazz, but still describes the music as “fascinating”, & goes on to write:

Those interested in 60s mod will enjoy it for its own sake, while others will be provided with an interest-piquing introduction to a largely forgotten instrument, and musician, in jazz.

Hope you enjoy it.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
“This is the cover art for Afro-Harping by the artist Dorothy Ashby. The cover art copyright is believed to belong to the label, Cadet, or the graphic artist(s).” Wiki Commons claims fair use for this low-resolution image.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Dao De Jing 16

Dao De Jing 16

Come to utmost emptiness,
preserve deep stillness.
The ten thousand things arise as one,
& as we see return to their source.
Returning to the source is called stillness—returning thus is unchanging fate;
where the unchanging is known there’s wisdom,
where the unchanging isn’t known, there’s lawlessness.
Knowledge of the unchanging embraces all, & embracing all is justice.
justice then is majesty, majesty then is divine, the divine then is the Way;
the Way endures through time.
One who follows the Way is free from peril even until death.

Laozi, 道德經
Translation by John Hayes
Unlike with my original poetry & poetry translations, I don’t asset a copyright claim on my translation of the Dao De Jing. It may be freely used under the terms of the Creative Commons license.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
“Four Immortals Saluting Longevity”: Shang Xi, early Ming Dynasty, hanging scroll, Color on silk. (“The immortals are from left to right: Shide standing on a broom, Hanshan standing on a banana leaf, Iron-Crutch Li standing on a crutch, and Liu Haichan riding a 'Chan Chu' three footed toad. The being riding the crane is the Longevity Star God”).
Public domain.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Distant Footsteps

Distant Footsteps

My father’s sleeping. His august countenance
implies a gentle heart;
just now so sweet…
if there’s anything bitter in him, that will be me.

there’s loneliness in this household; praying;
and there’s no news of the children today.
My father wakes, auscultates
the flight into Egypt, the stanching goodbye.
He’s now so close;
if there’s anything distant in him, that will be me.

And my mother walks there in the orchards,
savoring a flavor already without flavor.
She’s now such softness,
such a wing, such an exit, such love.

There’s loneliness in the home without any racket,
without news, without green, without children.
And if anything’s broken this afternoon,
and falls and creaks,
it’s two roads, white, curved.
My heart moves along them on foot.

César Vallejo, “Los pasos lejanos”
Translation by Jack Hayes
© 2017

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
"Flucht nach Ägypten": Hans Sandreuter; oil on canvas; 1885.
Public domain.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Nabu Corfa

Today we begin our August feature for Sunday music; this month’s feature artist is jazz harpist DorothyAshby. & when we say “harp” here, we don’t mean the slang for a harmonica; we mean an actual harp.

Ashby is an overlooked figure in jazz history; in general, the canon hasn’t given their due to women instrumentalists, & has rather focused on including vocalists. But Ashby was a true innovator, a composer, & a virtuoso player who was able to adapt the harp—an unusual instrument in a jazz context—to bebop. Indeed,the only other well-known jazz harpist being Alice Coltrane, who was also a pianist.

Today’s selection is “Nabu Corfa”, from Ashby’s 1965 Atlantic release The Fantastic Jazz Harp of DorothyAshby; interestingly, the recording session for the album took place in 1958. The session featured Ashby as leader on harp, backed by bassist Richard Davis, drummer Grady Tate, percussionist Willie Bobo, & a horn section consisting of Jimmy Cleveland, Quentin Jackson, Sonny Russo, & Tony Studd (though the latter’s trombone isn’t heard on this selection). “Nabu Corfa” is an original Ashby composition.


Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Autographed photo of photo of American musician Dorothy Ashby. Wiki Commons lists the source of the photo as this link, & claims “fair use”. There is apparently no public domain or copyleft photo of Ashby.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Walking Maranasati Double Octet


I’d like to forgive my lungs’ malfunction, ask
my lungs’ forgiveness too; cigarette smoke sky

billowing congestion all the way up to
the afterlife, its sequestered, collapsed stars:

coffee shop windows lined with brown paper, crow
gliding above the roof is the logical

outcome, a black breath emerging to after-
noon; one maple branch hangs broken, leaves expired—

I-5 traffic circulates under my feet—
the overpass quakes through its spine & rib cage—

three salsify stalks quake too on sunburnt grass;
is it traffic is it the north wind the crow

intersects gliding east into the past, in-
to overcast static in mutable flow,

this body walking west where the two trains pass,
my breath in sequence with the walk sign’s countdown

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Gypsy Woman

The Gypsy Woman

The gypsy knew in advance
Our lives are crossed by nights
We bade her fare-thee-well and then
Hope withdrew from these wells

Clumsy as a tame bear love
Danced upright whenever we wished
And the bluebird molted its feathers
And the mendicants lost their Ave

We all know well enough we’re damned
But hope of love along the way
Makes us ponder hand in hand
What the gypsy had foretold

Apollinaire “La tzigane”
Translation by Jack Hayes © 2017

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
“Gitana de perfil” (“Profile of a Gypsy”): Isidre Nonell  (1872–1911). Oil on canvas; 1902. Public domain.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

July Moon

(8 quatrains)

1. new moon

swallowtail glides black through a cherry tree’s shade;
the parking strip’s California poppies:

an assemblage of orange decoupage suns—
whatever moon there is: blue in this high sky

2. waxing crescent

three lime-green trikes lined up on the concrete porch,
one faded red ride-on fire truck parked below

on the patio—playground gate’s still open:
crescent drifts off to sleep in gathering clouds

3. half moon

the hummingbird hovers, wings shifting between
what’s seen & what’s imagined; it balances

at sunset, a silhouette near the black plum:
half moon’s equilibrium in fading blue

4. waxing gibbous

the scrub jay’s plumage forms a map of the sky
except for the sunset’s yellow cirrus glow;

traffic seems invisible as the bird flies:
the moon’s silver eyeball is gazing higher

5. full moon

the clematis has unfurled its purple cross
in the shadow of the board fence, below the

string of prayer flags—one white flag soaks up white light:
moon rising through lattice into black heaven

6. waning gibbous

floor lamp casts a white oval against the wall,
white pedestal fan churns the living room air;

slats on the white blinds have been slanted open:
moon bracketed by clouds rises between them

7. last quarter

the sidewalk’s hump over the tree’s knotted root
is strewn with ripe cherries, some crushed, some intact;

a single fruit falls, rolls down the sloped pavement:
half moon tips toward the branches’ tangled curve

8. waning crescent

white daylily blossoms speckled orange nod
sleepy above the sidewalk in this noon breeze--

marigolds reflect an occasional sun’s
bloom between clouds that hide the moon’s last petal

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tonight I Think I'm Gonna Go Downtown

My apologies for the Sunday Music feature appearing on Monday afternoon! But that’s kind of how things are this summer—& it is, as they say, “all good”.

We finish our look at the music of Jimmie Dale Gilmore with a relatively recent performance of one of his original Flatlanders songs. Gilmore also recorded a version for his 1991 Elektra release, After Awhile.

In the video I’ve included with this post, Gilmore is joined by Butch Hancock, another of the original Flatlanders, & their sons. For those who just want the song & not the banter beforehand, skip ahead to 5:00 minutes into the video—but you’ll miss a wonderful conversation between Gilmore & Hancock if you do.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this look at Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s music, & that it’s inspired you to look more deeply into his work & the recordings of the Flatlanders as well. We’ll return with a new featured artist in August—& will make every effort to post the Sunday Music features on Sunday.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Photo of Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Colin Gilmore at Deep Eddy Pool in Austin Texas, June 2004. Photo by Steve Hopson. More information about photographer and other images at Steve Hopson makes this image available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Cornel Dogwood Grove

Cornel Dogwood Grove

bearing fruit it’s vermilion & green,
as if its blossoms opened anew—
to keep your guest in these mountains
offer him this hibiscus cup

Translation by Jack Hayes © 2017
based on Wang Wei: 茱萸沜
zhū yú pàn

Image links to its source in Wiki Commons:
Cornus officinalis's fruits; photo by Dalgial, who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unportedlicense.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Two Alsea River Octets


1. morning

the Stellar’s Jay whistling in the Douglas-fir
is echoed by the silence of mergansers

as they drift downstream through poplar reflections,
their own reflections mingled with green tangles;

midstream the image of firs lie across
the water except for the one cleft of sky—

which reminds me the espresso pot’s steaming
waiting to be poured into forest green cups

2. noon

invisible bird sings in 7/8 time
through ash leaves past the elderberry bushes;

poplar leaves float west on the green river through
poplar reflections; three blackberry blossoms

directly in front of me & you reading
the heartbreaking story of the US west;

butterflies spin lazily through shaft of sun,
turn into ash leaves just before they touch ground

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Sunday, July 23, 2017

My Wildest Dreams Grow Wilder Everyday

Welcome to the Sunday Music feature on Robert Frost’s Banjo. Today we continue our July appreciation of Jimmie Dale Gilmore.

So far we’ve featured performances that highlight Gilmore’s strengths as a ballad singer, & those strengths are considerable. But Gilmore has always had an appreciation for honky tonk country music, & both his own compositions & songs he’s covered reflect that. Here he is fronting the Flatlanders band in full honky tonk incarnation; the Flatlanders are of course Gilmore, Butch Hancock, & Joe Ely (& various friends over the years). As one pressing of their original recordings pointed out in its title, the Flatlanders are in many ways “More a Legend than a Band”, as all three founders have gone on to successful solo careers & collaborations with other musicians. But fortunately for us, the Flatlanders also still perform together with both new & old material.

Hope you enjoy the music! In other news, I’m hoping to get the blog back up to something resembling a normal schedule in the next week.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Dust over Lubbock, Texas. Taken from the sixth floor of the Biology building at Texas Tech University, 21 March 2013. Photo by Fredlyfish4, who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0International license.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Just a Wave, Not the Water

We return to our series on Jimmie Dale Gilmore with another live performance. Backed by Bill Frisell on guitar, Jerry Douglas on Dobro, & Viktor Krauss, Gilmore gives us a beautiful version of Butch Hancock’s heartbreaking “Just a Wave, Not the Water”. Indeed, Gilmore has recorded this song on two different albums: his 1988 High Tone release, Fair & Square, & also Spinning Around the Sun, which was released in 1993 on the Elektra label. On the AllMusic site, Mark Deming characterized the latter version of Hancock’s song as “near-definitive”.

Hope you enjoy the music.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Galveston Island State Park — on Galveston Island along Galveston Bay, on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Skies over park's beach and the Gulf of Mexico. 12 January 2014. Photo by Yinan Chen. Per Wiki Commons: “This file has been released explicitly into the public domain by its author, using the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication. This file may be used for any purpose including unrestricted redistribution, commercial use, and modification.”

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Three Independence Day Octets

Independence Day Octet #1

late morning when the blinds open, a bird sings
somewhere beyond white parked cars—we haven’t been

introduced—there’s sunlight of course, a ghostly
butterfly to the east, but not the Far East;

we were looking at new colors for Lenten
roses—they were bocce balls on a west coast

lawn somewhere between Rockaway’s broken sand
dollar & Golden Gate Park’s calla lilies


Independence Day Octet #2

in the Renaissance they knew the soul is black,
the opposite of that souvenir baseball,

the one come to rest against my father’s watch;
afternoon’s firecrackers snap like banjo

strings bursting through a Marshall amp, the one lugged
up Burnside by the guy in black; a sky blue

heart drawn in sidewalk chalk, centered on the crack,
the one where I’m trying to find my mother


Independence Day Octet #3

a harmonica chord—let’s say C major—
morphs into the sound of a baby crying;

the sun, like the rest of us, is headed west,
the sky with its intentions both good & blue,

is otherwise empty unlike that front porch
piled with dried sunflowers; they make no sound

unlike that hammer against shingles or that
harmonica reverting to single notes

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Another Colorado

We return with more Jimmie Dale Gilmore for our Sunday Music series.

Today’s video features Gilmore in a solo setting performing his song “Another Colorado”. Gilmore describes the lyrics as “enigmatic”, but they’re also fun & wise, & the melody is beautiful. Just a lovely rendering of this composition, which can be found on his 1993 Elektra album, Spinning Around the Sun.

Hope you enjoy the music.

Image connects to its source on Wiki Commons:
"Postcard photo of the California Zephyr on Denver & Rio Grande trackage along the Colorado River in Western Colorado. In this segment of the journey, the train was headed by Denver and Rio Grande locomotives."
Public domain per Wiki Commons.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Two Octets from Early July

Evening Walk Octet

one star breaks loose from the Big Dipper, becomes
an airplane, makes straight for the silver half moon,

tail light blinking red; there’s not a single cloud—
the avenue though is thick with cherry leaves

& streetlights fragment in the foliage &
the mirror of a parked black motorcycle—

yucca stems have collapsed under their own white
weight; you stop to touch the redbud’s dark heart leaves


Monday Morning Moody Octet

having written the identical poem
a thousand times over I’ve come no closer

to wisdom; the harsh hum of a lawn mower
comes right through the blinds & spins by my shoulder,

& my heart’s as black as this Year of the Horse
hoodie dated 2002 I’m wearing

despite the fact it’s July, the zodiac’s
shifted, the sky’s cloudless far as I can see

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Sunday, July 2, 2017


July is upon us, & so we’re introducing a new feature artist for the Sunday Music series. & it’s a bit of a shift from the music we’ve been featuring, as July’s artist is none other than the great Jimmie Dale Gilmore, founding member of the Flatlanders, a uniquely gifted singer & songwriter who works in the Americana sound—or as some have said, in “Country & Eastern music”, given Gilmore’s penchant for mysticism.

Today’s selection is from an eTown concert that paired Gilmore with Dave Alvin (with eTown’s Nick Forster on mandolin), & it showcases Gilmore’s terrifically soulful voice in his beautiful reading of Woody Guthrie’s song “Deportee” (music by Martin Hoffman). Of course no one needs to be reminded of the current relevance of this moving song.

The performance itself starts at 1:30, but what Gilmore has to say in the opening minute & a half is both interesting &—to my mind—important, so I invite you to listen to the entire video.

Hope you enjoy the music! I look forward to bringing you other selections showcasing Gilmore’s talents as both a singer & songwriter throughout the month.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:

Jimmie Dale Gilmore performs at the 2014 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, 5 October 2014. Photo by David Becker [link provided for this user at Wiki Commons is empty], who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 Internationallicense

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Get Together

The performance starts at about 1:25, but I’d invite you to stick around for the opening remarks by Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore. For more Jimmie Dale Gilmore, be sure to check out the Sunday Music feature tomorrow & throughout July.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Peace art (collection of stones) in Näckrosen metro station, Stockholm. Photographed in April 2013. Photo by Sigurdas, who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unportedlicense.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Sauvie Island Eternal Return Octets

                        for Sandy

1. Convenience Store

parallel to candy bar racks, cardboard bins
filled with lead sinkers, pyramids & oblongs,

the addition of gravity to current,
carrying lures down to sturgeon depth; bobbers

meantime, red & white confections, put you in
mind of floating; we talk about watching the twitch

on still water as the fish nibbled sending
gray ripples out in circles a long time past

2. Pastoral

the llama watching a flock of sheep as it
kneels in the cottonwood’s shade hasn’t been sheared;

heat hasn’t started to shimmer off blacktop,
but an osprey rides a low thermal over

that hayed pasture; a kestrel swoops up, perches
on a power line, goes still against spotless

blue sky—it stretches deep in this heat; flowers
have replaced the engine of the red farm truck

3. Strawberry Picking

snow fields on the three mountains rise north & east;
scarlet hearts on their runners in rows lining

that knoll; juice on fingers, dust in sneaker mesh,
orange sun hat shading your face as you crouch—

light translated to that sweet taste on the tongue,
juice oozing from bags, the bottom layer pressed—

downhill, hydrangeas reflect sky, daisies
reflect sun as if this was a child’s painting

4. Multnomah Channel

bald eagle soars between sun & moored houseboats;
father, mother, children each casts a line from

rocks just down the channel from where we duck in
the cold wake the sailboat’s inboard engine

transmits to the shore; water that green black blue
the Chinese call nature’s color, at least in

translation; rocks sharp underfoot, cottonwood
pollen floating: lightness, risk, as if children

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017

June Moon

(8 quatrains)

1. new moon

one blush rose blossoming east reflects the sun
in more than one sense; the white rose bushes bloom

fair weather clouds come to earth—flying straight west
above blacktop one crow carries the new moon

2. waxing crescent

that single white rose by the front steps unfurls
new petals under the rosemary’s needles—

west horizon holds on almost white at dusk:
the crescent a lone petal in deeper blue

3. half moon

the rhododendron lets its petals fall off
to their mauve sleep along the walkway; brass wind

chimes play a lazy riff down the street; those white
clouds soar: half moon appears to sink on the slant

4. waxing gibbous

the big magnolia’s first white flowers gaze
south past the bus stop sign, almost shyly; this

violet light’s a bruise on the horizon:
the moon’s pupil looks in the same direction

5. full moon

in eight second story windows, just one light—
above the concrete, the shikimi’s leaves nod;

cedar boughs ripple against a dark sky where
the moon emerges as if between curtains

6. waning gibbous

leaves are black paper cutouts on this block past
the white reach of any streetlights; two rooftops

drawn in ink lines hemmed with a golden brushstroke:
moon just past full rises between their chimneys

7. last quarter

beyond green trusses of the Interstate Bridge
three geese fly south: shadows against overcast—

white sailboat mid-river is waiting for wind:
half moon drifts toward setting beyond white clouds

8. waning crescent

petals & leaves of the cirrocumulus:
the eyes can never visit the same one twice;

could cottonwood pollen fall from that distance?
blinded by the sun in search of the crescent

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Volunteered Slavery

We bring our all-too-brief series on Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s music to a conclusion today—but it is a rousing conclusion!

This video shows Kirk in peak form, playing sax, a conch shell, a gong, police whistle, & eventually using a wood chair as a percussion instrument, destroying it in the process! The energy level is at maximum level, & also includes a great piano solo by Ron Burton, while Kirk wanders through the audience at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, led by his percussionist & sidekick, Joe Habao Texidor.

“Volunteered Slavery” is the title track of a 1969 Kirk album issued on Atlantic. He also played it as a coda to “The Old Rugged Cross” on his masterful 1972 release, Blacknuss (& I very much regret I wasn’t able to fit a cut from that album into this overview).

I hope you enjoyed these selections, & if you’re new to Kirk’s music, I hope this spurs you to explore his work further. Stay tuned next month for more Sunday music!

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
“Roland Kirk playing at Lanchester Polytechnic in Coventry UK, January 1972.” Photo by Kentrethewey [link provided on Wiki Commons is empty], who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license

Friday, June 23, 2017

Backyard Loving-Kindness Double Octet

                        for Sandy

you & I talking over coffee, bench swing
rocking between sun & shade, the motionless

bicycle pinwheel in the garden, foxglove
flashes white facing east, purple facing west--

spider silk strung from the paperbark maple
to the rhododendron glistens, a live wire

vanishes as we turn our heads; such is light:
meanwhile we’ve each turned up in the other’s eyes

daylilies blossom in an orange circle
ahead of today’s heat; the future happens:

that frame hammock streaked with the ginkgo's shadow,
a rusted songbird’s mute note on the latticed

fence rail, that glass sun with curved black metal rays
& face; clematis twines on a bamboo pole,

& prayer flags reach from there to the pear tree:
light permeates ragged fabric, thread by thread

Jack Hayes
© 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dao De Jing 15

Dao De Jing 15

The ancient & skillful sages, subtle, mysterious, profound, were too deep to be fathomed. Because men could not fathom them, it’s best to describe their appearance:
Cautious as men fording a river in winter!
Trembling with fear at what surrounded them!
Grave & respectful as a guest!
Dispersing like melting ice!
Simple as uncarved wood!
Empty as a gorge!
Turbid as muddy water!
Who can turn muddy water gradually clear?
Who being quiescent can stir others to life?
Those who preserve the Way don’t desire fulfillment.
Not desiring fulfillment, they remain concealed & don’t ripen prematurely

Laozi, 道德經
Translation by John Hayes
Unlike with my original poetry & poetry translations, I don’t asset a copyright claim on my translation of the Dao De Jing. It may be freely used under the terms of the Creative Commons license.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
“Depiction of the Daoist immortal Lü Chunyang, also known as Lü Dongbin”: Zhang Lu (1464–1538) – Ink and light colors on gold-flecked paper; album leaf. Ming Dynasty.
Public domain.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Four Octets on the Way to the Solstice


1. Williams Ave Morning

the cartoon bee on the shop sign seems to fly
smiling into white birches, satisfied to

never land—katsura branches reach higher
than 10:30 sun, but its light penetrates

leaf skin on the verge of translucence, veined green
hearts—multi-dimensional curve & swirl of

black plum flattened to silhouette on pale green
fabric of a picnic table umbrella

2. 7th Ave Noon

the Japanese maple’s parasol: spring green
below, maroon up top; white pickup truck

in the driveway matches two calla lilies
by the house, at least in some sense; vanilla,

strawberry, chocolate balloons swirl on that
sandwich board’s ribbon as noon sun emerges

to cast the invisible robin’s shadow,
the one singing from the invisible tree

3. Glisan St Afternoon

near the bus stop the sidewalk’s strewn green with grass
a weed-whacker scattered there; elsewhere sharp black

angles of street signs, the power lines’ scalloped
edges criss-cross concrete; it’s different in

the sky: cotton rags of the cumulus clouds,
the poor at heart at the fringe of the high blue—

bamboo stands up in galvanized tubs above
barbed wire strands into irresistible light

4. Mississippi Ave Evening

at Beech St the sun has dropped below that brick
building, just the magnolia’s top boughs glow;

half a block north, white light halo envelopes
the ash tree,  blinding inflorescence of rays

intersects power lines; bus stop sign bends its
half-circle shadow up a plate glass door; my

shadow stretches past golden bamboo east to
the red metal bench where I saw us talking

Jack Hayes
© 2017