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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

BRAD HENDERSON and JOHN AMEN [April 19]

John Amen and Brad Henderson teamed up to give the Sacramento faithful an evening of spurs, blues and songs from the Jersey shore.

Brad started the evening by introducing the audience to his new movement of neo-cowboyism, a school that considers the balance between the city and the country. Brad talked about his grandfather’s cattle ranch that he spent summers at near Rancho Seco. A lot of hay baling took center stage during this experience. Brad laments the fact that most of the cowboys have gone (his uncle’s ranch near Modoc even has a golf course nearby). The modern cowboy, Brad theorizes, are posing as rock and rollers.

He started with his first poem “definition.” It went something like this.

Neo-cowboyism is
that strange force
that makes Slash wear
black snakeskin
Tony Lama boots.

He then proceeded to read “horseback haiku”

big rob’s pearl-snap shirt
nut blood on his denim, heel
rope them runt bull calves

He followed those two with “walk about,” “California freedom,” “The Mysterious City Girl.” Then Brad moved into the musical portion of the evening. He dedicated his a cappella version of Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” to long-time friend and Davis partner in crime, Andy Jones. Prior to this, rather mysteriously, Brad referred to Andy and himself as the human equivalents of unicorns. They are unicorn men. [Does this mean they are cornudo?]

After the rendition of Bruce, Brad read a fictional account of a bar fight called “The Bar Fight.” Then on to a sonnet—“The Legend of Jackson Creek”— about Brad’s trying to dig up some putative buried gold at his grandfather’s ranch that had been abandoned since the days of the stagecoach.

Then there was the theme poem of Brad’s new broadside that had to do with neo-cowboyism, addiction and a little bit of rock and roll:

secret cowboy at the raw bar [2:19]

it’s been 9 years
& 262 days
since my last nip
of hooch—
nothing’s gone in, not a sip
of whiskey or my beloved
gin. i’ve had to feel things
naturally—
anger w/out no
temper fix
& the rooms say this
is life on life’s terms
not mine.

like a roller-coaster ride
scaled so large
you must scream & cry
& also laugh
or else you’ll die
motion in levels
swells the heart’s
amniotic case
i leak to survive
proof serum gas
out of my throat
& puckered dry
ass

back when i rose early
spry as a lamb
worked hard & come quittin’
yeehawed relief
put on clean duds
good boots & my hat
gulped a hot-snort
then announced, Howdy, ma’am.
I’m gettin’ good “n” drunk.
years later, i’m sittin’ here
dressed to blend out
in 501s
& a black T-shirt

a business woman
eats sushi on my right
a corporate waif
quaffs a shot on my left
he is watching the playoffs
the sound is flat
in the mirror, there’s me
expressionless
a half-hidden
mug shot
among columns & rows
glass-cut prisms
liquor jugs

were it a time
of adventure & glory—
piss primal fights
clam-cloth motels, faces pressed
on clear plastic?
adieu, adieu—
to all i remember
& to the more
that i’ll know later
to sip, to swirl, to in-secret
confess—
as a lip wipe after
a vulgar spit


And finally there was a tribute to his grandma that grew out of family dilemma about what to do with her ashes that had been in a filing cabinet for several years. The piece was called “What I Did with Ree-Ree”

Then John Amen took his spot behind the podium. He started talking about the “More Factor” where he made reference to Erisychthon, a poor soul who was punished with insatiable hunger by Demeter for cutting down a grove of trees. The poem he read was called “During a Lull” from John’s book More of Me Disappears.

He stirred up his regular reading list by looking for a sign from his environs about what he should read. Something about Brad Henderson’s poems reminded him of time he spent in New York, so he read “New York Memory #3,” a reminder of a time when he was living in his dead father’s rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn Heights.

Then there was “Eulogy For My Mother,”

Eulogy For My Mother

My mother was a young swallow
abandoned to my care. I raised her to adulthood
and set her free. I see her occasionally now,
mostly at sunset when clouds pass like wild geese.

I call her by her christened name.
On summer evenings, she builds nests
in the awnings of my house,
splashes in birdbaths in my backyard.

Sometimes she stares through the window,
but never with longing. I have become God,
and she is Cain, who slew Abel, my child-self.
I tell her to wander, but I put a mark

on her feathery brow, that she might not
perish at the hands of other blind mothers.
She thanks me for it, for severing that cord;
in songs as piercing as evening rain,
grieves she was unable to cut it herself.


Then he read from ”Christening the Dancer” which was set into motion by giving trying to give birth to the energy of dancing. Like Shiva.

Then he did “Narcissism” with a blues intro. [3:58]

John then read a few poems for his wife Mary, They were from a series entitled “Portraits for Mary.” The first one was entitled “#3,” then “#20.” [“What is it about beauty that lands me in the throat of grief?”]

The final poem he read was “What I Said to Myself”

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