SUMMER OF LOVE

I fall into the dream and don’t look back. The Muse is there. Her green eyes transfixed on the form my body takes between foolish leaps of inner revolution.

FALLING. Falling. falling.

The way two bodies merge in such tranquil motion. Atop mountain boulders. Beside the trickle of wet streams. Upon the shores of desert lakes resembling surrealist paintings from another century.

She the High Priestess. The Queen of Cups. A faerie springing from the leaf in the wind. The waterways that flow through us. Blood lines that brought us to this place together.

Funny how you can fall for someone in an hour and a half car ride where for the last half hour, half the car is asleep and the other half is saying to himself, “Well, at least she exists. I was starting to think I’d been holding too high expectations. But now I see she’s out there. I’m satisfied just to know she exists,” and not expecting anything beyond the crossing of their transits.

But two stars built of the same cosmic dust tend to find an alignment in their gravitation at least for a short bit.

“Wouldn’t it be interesting for two people to go on the road together traveling to national parks across the country, sleeping together underneath the stars, finding waterfalls to lay each other under, climbing trees to hang upon the view in one another’s arms, so that when finally they conceive a child they could say this starseed was conceived in a beautiful place,” she muses.

Warrior rambling between revolution and lovemaking. Her soft embrace a sacrament to boost both their life forces. Even in conflict, their conversation of peaceful resolve. Gaining a better understanding for communication that lies beyond the tongue. Eye gazing till the gold of the sun adds depth to their inner light. Magic that illuminates the path they both stand on.

“You’re such a romantic,” she says.

“I’m one of the last,” he replies.

Poetry read out loud during these long car rides. Roads blocked because of the forest fires, but with every orgasm another monsoon to douse the flames. Soon the earth is wet and fertile again. He, her humble Pan, pantomiming the flute as they climb the rocks and go swimming in the river. She, his Artemis, her beauty soaking up moonlight, soaking up river bends, bouncing upon forest undergrowth in tune to the beat of his heart rhythms.

Purple lupine line the roadway. Datura blooms on every city street corner.

“I love how you’re such a Dreamer,” he exclaims.

“What do you mean when you say that?” she asks.

“It’s something in your eyes.”

“Oh, you mean the madness?”

“Perhaps that’s what it is. But how I see it, you have one eye focused on this plane and the other sees deeply into the spirit world, beyond it.”

They talk of hallucinogenic trips they’ve took. Lessons they’ve learned. Ceremonies they’ve held. They eat mushrooms while sitting at the edge of a painting and examine the fractals that overlay their bodies.

Green chile and lime sauce. Enough to move a peyote button to skip across the roof of a purple adobe cavern.

Time melts. The sea splits in half. They move between worlds unseen by the general populace. But their motions are felt. Must be all the love. The look on each one’s face. A little glimmer of hope in this great wasteland of chaos.

The dreams they craft. Drifting out. Rippling out. Writhing from skin on skin contact. Everywhere they go, the rains follow. She commands him with her hands to grab her breasts and ride the infinite crescent moon she holds beneath her dress.

Both panting, but not exhausted, they connect the worlds and bridge their passions in a way that only lovers can.

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SUMMER OF LOVE

South Kensington’s A War Zone

SOUTH KENSINGTON’S A WAR ZONE

Walking through South Kensington is like walking through a war zone. Rapid fire machine guns. Nail guns. Jackhammers. Industrial machinery. Tractor trailers beeping backwards. Dump trucks unfilling their refuse. Shouting so loudly the dust shakes off old concrete bricks and into a cloud of chaos. Eris rules supreme. The sound waves echoing off half-constructed shoddy plywood walls holding up these neo-futuristic monstrosities. Desolate warehouses collapsing under the severe pressure of the drum taps. Ash and smoke rising in the breeze from block to abandoned lot, where the bodies used to pile, now turned into yuppie condos.

Out west they are burning down whole forests, old redwood groves. Whole towns. The “carelessness” of the people in charge. A stray electric wire on a utility pole. Wonder what mini-mall they’ll build next in place of these historic sights.

Back east we’re building rich American Dreams for those who can’t dream on their own. The Manifest Destiny of filling every neighborhood corner and former urban garden and raw alley and even the cracks in the sidewalk with the travesty of supply and demand for a place where no one will know your name, even though you live right next to them, and there’s high black gates in front of every doorway in case someone gets the wrong impression seeking a neighbor.

How did I live through this as long as I did? With every step I step a little closer to this nervousness inside myself coming to the surface. Unconscious to it but feeling my heart racing nonetheless. This concrete jungle active and alive as whole neighborhoods are renovated to suit rich white folk interests from New York and the Jersey burbs squashing an identity that took decades, even generations to grow. Gentrification in a matter of moments.

Developers greedy rich with ideas for what they’ll call this “new” hood, sequestering google maps with murals and handmade road signs they hang from telephone poles, depicting a language of money.

One thing I forget until I return to Philly is the depression. What it feels like to have your hopes dashed in front of you by machines more powerful. Corruption and greed using the anarchy of bureaucracy against you. Creating new structures out of a world that you thought was shared. The exteriors built to crumble so the replacements aren’t even worth the amount of trauma they subjugate us with.

I find it interesting how as I cross over into Northern Liberties, an old hot bed for this type of displacement which has mostly settled down in recent years, except for the outer reaches, my mind and my heart come back into focus. I feel present with my surroundings. I experience the feeling of readjustment. Being one with the sun above.

I can actually hear myself think and the sound of my brother speak, telling a story he’s been saying all along but as we crossed into the war zone it became all jumbled, practically frantic, losing its focus, and becoming just more of the static as I try to make out his point but can’t even figure out what is happening in the present moment.

South Kensington’s A War Zone

March Forth, My Friends

​MARCH FORTH, MY FRIENDS
We assemble for a friend’s birthday party and it doesn’t take me long to realize all of these friends I’ve made over the years come from completely different backgrounds and schoolings with one main defining similarity. 

They are all farmers.

These friends I’ve connected with for all sorts of reasons, when it comes right down to it, enjoy nothing more than putting their hands in the dirt and making seeds come to life.

So here we are, sitting in a circle discussing a variety of tools from permaculture and the changing growing seasons, as well as what native seeds we got at the most recent seed trade and how owned land is hard to come by, so making due with squatting on abandoned land works just as well.
As the conversation moves into a reaction towards regressive politicians, the night begins to take on the look and feel of a general assembly. And as I look around me, I realize the free radicals around me are all regenerative agriculturalists. These guerilla warriors are planting corn where a rowhome burned down 20 years ago and garbage has been disposed of since.

They’re the people on the frontlines of every protest, dressed in all black, taking cracks from the policeman’s billy club. 

They’re the clowns in the background raising spirits.

In all of this, they’re the ones making moves when a lot of us feel frozen. Urban gardeners continuing to prepare for the apocalypse.
Their gardens are the next to be lost. In this city, like every city, that cares more about tax revenue than moderating development to make sure developers keep in tune with the identity of the neighborhood they rape and pillage, green space is running out.

These gardeners have already lawyered up, organized petitions, and cut locks to keep their gardens operating. Food For The People are words of revolution for them.

A day later, I’m in the streets of my old neighborhood. I’m playing trumpet in a New Orleans style death march for a cat that passed away only recently. We’re all dressed in shiny, psychedelic costumes from Mummers parades past. Some of us have drums, kazoos, fireworks and other noisemakers.

The march starts with somber notes. Slow and cold we fill the street, holding a walking vigil. I feel like I’m playing a melody that is for the death of my old home in East Kensington. We pass shoddily built condos. $450,000 4-story megahomes. They’re all ugly behemoths atop streets full of sinkholes and cracked concrete. I remember all the former lots, the former community gardens, the weird art sculptures, and the grounds we had pop up music shows in.

Some of us are weeping. A lot of us are feeling glad to feel this warmth of community. We bury the cat and our leader who is part Cherokee sings a song of returning the earth to its former glory. Encouraging the grass to grow where the burial mound now is.
A neighbor overhears one of us discussing how shitty her giant condo is. She yells, “Hey, I heard that. I heard you saying that about my house.” Drunk, the guy says he doesn’t care. He can’t wait till it falls down in three years.

There’s a lot of tension and I think to myself, “Welcome to Philly.”

Someone does eventually say, “Welcome to the neighborhood.”
At that we start marching again. This time the melodies are upbeat and raucous. “Oh when the saints…go marching in….oh when the saints go marching in.”
There are a lot of drum break downs and horn solos and the band starts singing as their followers join in dancing. 
Eventually we make it back to the house party for March Fourth.
“March Forth,” everyone yells.
A simple parade. Perhaps the beginning of new traditions.

March Forth, My Friends

Street Theater

STREET THEATER
(artwork by Dylan A.T. Miner)

I envision a mass demonstration. Folks coming into the heart of the city. Riding trains and bicycles. Assembling near City Hall. Tens of thousands. Maybe more. Each with their own sign rallying around the cause. A cause for the world and its children. A cause for Life. Love for us All.

They begin to march.

There are trumpets, sounding the alarm. Drum circles leading the charge. Movement in rhythmic motion forward.

They march onto the avenues. Hold traffic till tomorrow. Heading straight for the Liberty Bell inside Independence Hall.

Unnerved by routine, they only settle here for a while. Then they continue further. Marching north. And then west. And then south. Into the stars. Above the ground. Their souls’ chants echo against the concrete walls. Each footstep causes a groundswell.

Eventually the whole city is taken over. The working crowd leaving their offices and joining the march. Tourists and other pedestrians going along for the ride. People swept off their feet and into the current.

It all seems smooth and victorious, except for what awaits for them just beyond the next traffic light.

Near Rittenhouse, a tank is just around the corner. It’s a big tank. One of the largest and greatest tanks. A tank greater than any other made before. A tank made of cardboard and painted black. Recyclables turned into the war machine. Its motor singing the finale of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture as it rolls forward. Its wheels at least twenty pairs of boots belonging to its drivers marching a synchronized beat.

Led by the tank is an army of clowns. Bum clowns. Circus clowns. Awkward and Weird clowns. Fascist clowns. Merry Pranksters dressed in Federalist regalia. Minstrels of mummery dressed in the cultures they’ve conquered. Clowns in White Face. Clowns in Black Face. The Blue Man Group wooping like car alarms. Scary clowns. Nasty clowns. Jerk clowns. Clowns of the sewers. Clowns of the pipelines. Clowns of the pulpit and the banks. Hundreds of clowns following the tank.

At their back is the main cheese. The King Clown himself surrounded by a dozen or more head honcho Court Jesters. A cabinet as insane as it can get. In turn, all of them holding onto multiple leads. Hundreds of strings attached to the army’s heads and legs and feet and arms and hearts. Puppet masters and their marionettes.

The two parades meet on Walnut Street. Outside the Barnes and Noble. Clowns and Lovers and a whole city of park sitters, random shoppers, and luxurious apartment residents watching the scene.

At first there is a standoff. Neither side so sure of the other. The Clowns glaring pure terror, while the Lovers can’t help but laugh. But then someone turns up Tchaikovsky’s overture and the tank starts firing shots. Large balls of confetti shoot into the air. The cannon balls synced up to the music, firing like the Russians against Napoleon did.

At first nothing. Then people start dropping. Then finally pure absolute terror and the people not already on the ground start running out of the way.

Soon, everyone has either been knocked down by the tank, or been completely scattered onto sidewalks and out of the street.

All except for a single child.
They stand there upright. Not much older than 7 or 8. A short pixie cut with rainbow streaks in their hair. A young girl holding a heart-shaped balloon in one hand, while the other is extended forward offering a rose.

Tiananmen Square. A stencil drawn by the street artist Banksy. Zuccotti Park. Tahrir Square and so many others. These images are all brought to mind in this single gesture.

The tank silences.
The clowns mime surprise and awe.
They begin to step forward, maybe to snatch the girl up, and then they stop.
The child starts whistling.
They step forward towards the cannon on top of the tank.
The gun lowers down just in arms reach.
The child places the rose into its barrel.

A GOP official from Michigan wants another Kent State? Well, this is how Love overcomes Hate.

The Clowns all fall to their knees. Even the King. They bow to this child and the girl giggles relief.
One of the clowns brings forward a bucket of paint.
The child takes the brush and walks forward to the tank to paint it.

Behind them, others begin to rise from the pavement. They too come forward and begin to paint. Soon folks are wandering back onto the street from the sidewalks and joining them from the park and surrounding store fronts. Each person is handed a paintbrush as more buckets are brought out. The once black tank, quickly turns to a canvas of peace signs and rainbows and pretty flowers and moonshine beneath golden rays.

The scene turns from one that is war torn to a community block party. Folks of all ages and nationalities and sexual identities and gender pluralities exploring what it means to rediscover their inner child on the public street.

Someone passes out chalk and they start turning the floor beneath them into a whole other ecology. City streets turned into abundant gardens. Seeds of harmony blossoming. A psychedelia of awakened heart permeates in the breeze. A true rêvelution like never seen anywhere else.
The creative mind united with the heart making communal art.
A band sets up on the band stand. They play punk choruses like it’s the 1980s and everyone begins to dance.

At this point, the King Clown has let go of the leads or even begun to cut the strings and the Clowns are suddenly allowed to be truly free.

It starts with the King Clown’s Head of Interior. Then the Department of Education soon follows. Soon it’s the Attorney General. And his self-declared Head of Intelligence. They each grab at the tank. The cardboard beginning to tear. Where it tears, they rip harder, until each piece breaks free.

The other Clowns get a hint and join in this disassembly. Each taking a piece and ripping the tank to shreds.
The painted pieces are lifted high in the air. Some of them are attached to long sticks to wave in the air. New protest signs. New messages. Simple in their color and slogans. Rainbows spreading. LOVE. PEACE.

The act is almost over.
Everyone is feeling real fine.
For most of them they’re not even sure what’s happening anymore the vibe is so fresh.

And at this brightest moment, it springs up.
Hidden beneath the leftover rubble of the former tank, the BLACK SNAKE.
He emerges.
Dark and stormy.
A hiss as his head pokes high into the air.
Another hiss as he looks downwards on the people suddenly entangled in his long winding and ever-present scales.
A tail so long, it grabs up the people down the street even a mile away.

No one can move. They’re all entranced in his hypnotizing stare.

Except for the King.
The King steps forward. He’s lost his yellow wig. His fat gut. His entire wardrobe, except for the crown. Except for the crown, he now looks less like a monarch, and more like a human. He’s become an old woman actually. He’s grown long hair and tied it back. His court robes have been replaced by a polka dotted dress that reaches down to high heels. His gestures are less oafish and more heart-centered, sensitive. He holds a tall staff in his hand. To some he looks like a mixture somewhere between a wizard, a hippy, and Alice in Wonderland.

He removes the crown. Tosses it into the snake’s mouth.
The snake swallows it whole.
The elder pulls out a tobacco pipe and begins smoking.
The snake slithers closer.
Unfazed, the elder kneels down and touches the earth. People close to him can hear him humming.
The snake hangs overhead and opens its mouth wide.
With the speed of lightning it lowers its head and snaps.
The elder even quicker, places his wooden staff between the roof of the snake’s mouth and its bottom teeth.
Open mouth, it hovers around him, trying to bite, but failing.
In the confusion of it all, the elder grabs the snake’s tongue and pulls.
The snake lurches back, but the elder holds strong and the tongue pulls out of the snake’s head, bringing with it the snake’s black and gooey insides.

The girl from before reemerges. Giggling they join the elder and hold onto the snake’s tongue.
Others wake up from their trance and join them too. Each grabbing a hold of the extending tongue.

The snake still tries to get free pulling back even further. Unraveling as it pulls further and further away, letting more and more of its insides be pulled out.

Its insides go all the way back into history. They go back in time to before then into herstory.
They continue to pull out and suddenly we’re seeing the birth of it all.
Through the snake’s death, we are seeing how it all started.
The rope turns from oil slick to wooden stick to lightning strikes to molten lava.
Everything one can think of that burns and more.
A long fuse leading back into the beginning.
Before time.
Something like the chicken and the egg, philosophically.

At the end of the string is an egg.
Inside the egg is water.
The water is clear and pure.

From one of his dress pockets the Elder pulls out a bag of seeds.
He takes a single seed from the bag and holds it high over his head.
It shimmers gold in the sunlight.
Then he tosses it to the withering shell of the black snake skin beneath him.
He opens the egg and dumps the water onto this fertile earth.

From the point, where he placed the seed, grows a giant rose.

Catharsis.

Street Theater

Vote for Bernie; Tomorrow, June 7th

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Get out and vote!
Tomorrow, June 7 is an extremely important day for our country and for the world around us. California, New Jersey, and New Mexico all have their primaries (as well SD, ND, and MT). Voters have a chance to change the course of our country’s history.

Please friends, go out and vote! Even if you’re like me and have a complete distrust of our “democracy”, this is about the best chance we got to save the world, beyond getting in the streets and protesting every single damn tragedy our capitalist regime has created in it’s 200+ years on this planet.

Bernie Sanders is the only candidate set to hold the crooks on Wall Street accountable. He’s the only one talking to the leaders of our continent’s native nations. He’s the only one who cares about black lives and has demonstrated this by actually getting in the streets and getting arrested for protesting for civil rights, not to mention hiring BLM activists to work to expand the message of his campaign. He’s the only candidate who marched with MLK, or marched at all, ever, on that note. He’s the only candidate who is anti-fracking and will fight for our environment. He’s the only one standing up for immigrants and refugees from foreign, war-torn countries. He’ll fight for women’s lives. He’ll fight for trans lives. I believe unless he’s completely brain-tapped on his first day in office, he’ll fight for activists, since he is one.

On every level the man has been on the right side of history and demonstrated integrity in staying true to his core values. To my friends, he is the better candidate and I believe we can all agree that the world will be a better place with him as president. To my parents and fellow members of an older generation, who have already been let down before by party politics, don’t vote for yourselves…..vote for the next generation and their future. This is the world we have inherited. Let’s work together to make it a better one.

Bernie Sanders is the only candidate carrying a message of Love so strong and connecting so many diverse folks together that it will trump Hate. The polls show this. The rallies show this. His message shows this.

We all need this to happen. I don’t believe the political revolution ends with Bernie Sanders. I believe it starts with us.

Vote for Bernie; Tomorrow, June 7th

Don’t Go With The Flow, Flow With The Go!

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(written while staying in Taos, NM)

Met a poet the other day named John Mason. A real hip cat of a fella. As a poet, still living life as much a student as a teacher. Too young to be a proper beatnik, but spent enough time with that generation. Reciting rhymes. Stories of the road. Lost sweet hearts in New Orleans. Run ins with Nixon. A real mind blower if I ever met one.

He told me this vision of a Beat convention at Naropa in Boulder, Colorado. Circa 1980? Ginsberg, Snyder, Burroughs. All present. Maybe even Jan Kerouac. I swear she wrote about it in her second novel.

John Mason bet his buddy with a bus ticket he could beat him there by hitch hiking. Both traveling from Detroit, Michigan. A real rambler in a time before cell phones. He lost the bet, but only by 4 hours.
First thing he does after arriving in town is ask an organizer about the open mics. Organizer says, “Sorry John. We ain’t thought about that.”

So John goes to city hall, rounds up a bunch of open air venues and bookstores. Comes back and hands a list to the organizer and says, “You got 500 or more poets coming in from all across the world. That’s a whole bunch of folks who should be reading. Here’s a complete list of your open readings and shared microphones for the next three days.”

A real wrangler. Ended up sharing the stage with Bill Burroughs before the convention was over. Got drunk at a party with Harold Norse. Really became a part of the scene.

Then he tells me this other story in lyric form. Recites it from the top of his head as if it were sitting on the page in front of him. A real epic if I ever heard one. Stole the cadence from Rudyard Kipling. Story starts with a taste of a 4 way window pane before setting out on the road. Thumbs a ride somewhere near Chicago and gets picked up by a normal looking guy and his wife. Before him, the road animated like a crystalized quartz jewel opening wide.

The driver seems wise to his plight. Strikes up a conversation about civil disobedience, riots, and the holy NOW. John Mason didn’t hesitate a moment, jumping right into this philosophical diatribe. The holy NOW is what really caught him most and my retelling won’t do it justice. You’ll have to talk to John Mason yourself for any sort of clarity, because see, it ends up this driver and his wife are somewhat scholars of sufi-mystics. They’d practiced the Tao and read up on Zen. So with all John Mason’s spirit leaning towards hippy activism, they had a response for him that seemed to intuit doing nothing.

But here’s where the argument changes. There is a moment of clairvoyance. Before you know it the driver’s tossing out a new mantra that a whole generation could get behind.
And this is the real mindblower. Both for John and for me in his retelling.

The driver, he says, “John, don’t go with the flow, man. The only thing I ever saw go with the flow was a dead fish floating down the river.” He says. “See, John. You gotta learn to flow with the go, man. There ain’t no other way about it.”

And right there, John Mason’s mind on acid tips right into a new direction. And here I am in the 21st century, having the same reaction.

Don’t go with the flow, man.
The only thing that ever did that was a dead fish.
Instead you gotta flow with the go.
That’s the real way to find enlightenment.

Don’t Go With The Flow, Flow With The Go!

The Voice of Marshall

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I don’t usually share these memories, but 6 years ago today I read at my first poetry reading. It was the beginning of my 3rd year in Philadelphia. I had just moved to VWVOFFKA, a house gallery my friends had started a few months before. My friend Jenna Wilchinsky hosted VWVOFFKA’s first ever Word Exchange, with some featured poets from Temple University. I think both Masha Badinter and Jenna had collaborated on the name for this event which would eventually become a series at the house, and I would eventually carry into describing any reading I would host around town (recently I noticed Little Berlin, another gallery I put a few years into, started using the same phrase to describe a monthly reading series they’ve been hosting in the Annex Space. Ha! It’s a good phrase!).

I was 23. The writing I was putting to paper was part of a novel called The Voice of Wye Gnough, a story about a lonely, angsty twenty-something named Michael Cavendish and this sage-like, acid-wine drinking, bum savant that he keeps seeing at Le Bar named Wye Gnough. The story wasn’t very good and mostly about a recent short-lived relationship, I was still dealing with the fall out from. I was young (or well, I was younger).

The other poets were well-versed, maybe a little bit rehearsed and generally inside the same crit class together, so all pretty aware of each other’s writing and all the inside jokes / meta language they were using. I don’t remember what they read, but I remember they smoked cigarettes while they read and as they finished each poem, they threw the page to the ground.

I had never read my work out loud before and I didn’t really know what I was doing. WHY-NO, a performance art act I did that involved drinking wine and banging on the emptying jugs of it and singing angst-ridden songs of desolation, was still fresh in my mind so I brought my omnichord. I strummed chords to keep the words rolling off my tongue. This is kind of funny looking back at because one idea I had for this last tour of reading haikus was to bring a casio keyboard along (the same one I used during WHY-NO days) and play tunes between each haiku. Obviously WHY-NO still has a hold on my imagination.

This was pre-erotica (I didn’t start writing that till the following year after traveling to Paris, Madrid, and Barcelona while reading Delta of Venus by Anais Nin). It was pre-travel fiction (I had traveled some, but not found my voice in the road just yet). I think people received my short stories alright. I think I might’ve been the only one who read short stories. But the most interesting thing was that I heard my own voice for the very first time.

I have written since I was 16 or 17, with actively thinking myself a writer, and even longer without. But this was the first time I heard the words outside my own head. I heard how the sentences didn’t flow exactly the way I predicted them too. I listened to how some droned on as huge mouthfuls where I would run out of breath. And others didn’t get the reaction I desired. A laugh. Or a sigh of awe.

I think I had what I thought was a poetry voice to make things sound more intricate. Really it was to cover up my nervousness. I think it involved several gin n’ tonics. It was the beginning of a few year period where I slurred my words and thought there was magic in how garbled they rolled.

This was the reading where I met Willow Zef (then Jozef Maguire). He had passed by our store front window and seen what he correctly thought was a poetry reading, though I probably corrected him at some point and said, “Nah, man. It’s a word exchange.” Disagreement has always been an interesting part of our friendship. It’s helped me explore new parts of myself I didn’t know were there to have this other contrasting perspective in one of my close friends. 6 years ago, he stepped up and read and he taught me the value of beat and recitation, through these almost hip hop inspired, magically real verses he would rattle off his chest without any verse in front of him.

A month or two later, I would meet Augustus Depenbrock at one of these word exchanges, a week or so before the first ever Plato’s Porno Cave (a surreal gala that we eventually collaborated on for several years) held in his warehouse loft space, and Gus would perform the most interesting, off the cuff recitation of a Bukowski poem about a radio thrown through a window, I’ve ever heard. From him I would learn repetition and the value of controlling the tone of voice.

I would meet other folks like Scott Bickmore and Cipro that year at further Word Exchanges. And folks like Keri Hansen, in who I would find a friend to share inspiration with. She’d share with me writers that I should read, and in that way constantly push my expression. She’d also be the final voice to complete the group that would write a literary blog, Top 5 Fingers, which involved me, Gus, Zef, and a friend from college, Alana Franasiak. That year I would even host the writer of the La La Theory and White Elephants zines, who I’d admired for a long time, Katie Haegale. And in somewhat a different direction, that would be the year I would lose the first person to ever call me “brother”, Mike Hall. His death still carrying it’s weight for me every November, leaving me lost and longing, but also giving me a better sense of the value of life and how fragile it can sometimes be.

I read The Voice of Wye Gnough several more times over the year. Each time I’d read, I’d find new things I liked and many more I disliked. I started to write new chapters and rewrite old ones with the sound of my voice in mind. Back then I mostly wrote on a typewriter I bought for 10 dollars on the side of the road in North Philly. Each time I read, I paid more attention to the sound of the words. But The Voice of Wye Gnough wasn’t quite right yet. Some of it was unsalvageable to this new style I was finding. This new voice that was increasingly my own.

Eventually, I would scrap the novel because of its jumbled sentences and lack of true development. One of the last times I would read from it, Gus would actually light some of the pages on fire. It was New Years. A celebration in the second house for VWVOFFKA to pop up in, two blocks north on the road. The same building where Little Baby’s Ice Cream now resides. In the basement, was the first home of the Dream Oven. I watched and admired the flames, but then I realized I had no idea which pages Gus was reading from and whether they were any good or not.

I yelled out, “Gus! That’s typewritten. I don’t have any copies!”

The pages turned to smoke and ash and went out on the floor and I had to accept they were gone. Part of me accepted it was better that way. The remaining pages I put in a box somewhere and taped shut, maybe a month or two later.

If I had never read poetry that year, I would’ve never found my voice. Even more importantly, I would have never found my writing community.

Now six years later, I’ve just completed my second poetry tour across the country. I’ve found and been reinvigorated in the magic that spoken words hold. They can be healing. They inspire others. They create a sense of connection that maybe some other forms of expression can’t quite match. There’s a vulnerability in them. There’s definitely a catharsis.

It’s interesting to perceive how short a time six years are, relatively, between then and now. It’s interesting to examine how much growth, I’ve had personally and where I’m at as a writer today. And even more so to see all the growth in my peers. To see all of the many good vibes we’ve brought ourselves through. It’s amazing to think of all the things we’ve created together.

The creative life is a beautiful one. The Voice of Wye Gnough was an attempt at telling a story of it. Of our generation. Even back then I was calling us all Dream Punks. But it came up short. It failed miserably.

One day, hopefully soon, I’ll finish that first novel, though, and tell the story of the incredible scene I’ve been brought up in.

The Voice of Marshall