What’s the matter? said Alex. I haven’t been sleeping, said Blurtso. Why not? said Alex. I keep thinking of Lizzy. Lizzy? said Alex. Yes, said Blurtso, a donkey I saw on campus. What’s so special about Lizzy? I’m not sure, said Blurtso, there’s just something about her… I think I’d give anything just to brush against her. Really? said Alex. Yes, said Blurtso, and it’s driving me mad. Like in the poem, said Alex. The poem? said Blurtso. Sure, said Alex, the sonnet by Shakespeare: “By day my limbs, by night my mind for thee and myself, no quiet find.” Yes, said Blurtso, that’s it. Shakespeare sure knew donkeys.
“Another day,” thought Blurtseau, “and another night. The king is dead, and those who killed the king are dead, and Napoleon consolidates his power while those who would kill him wait in the wings. And the once-full moon that illuminated my vainglorious victory now wanes with a warbling light. Tomorrow the fighting will begin anew, the British, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, Italian, Sardinian, Greek generals… and all the world spins with the bones of the living and the bones of the dead, so many dead, those who pursued a borrowed or inherited dream, white bones in the soil, white bones in the surf of the sea, bones as white as the flickering tail of the waning moon, sparking and submerging among the breakers, flickering water reflection of fleeting sun echoed upon half-eaten moon, half-eaten moon half-eclipsed by the globe it now reflects down upon… half-eaten glow that grows dimmer each day… until the moon, the day, the night, and all our blood-urgent exploits fall dark upon the darkness of the sea, and vanish in the low laving sound of the waves eating the rocks with their dance of disintegration.
“And when the moon goes black, the stars will mark my path to Montecristo where Echo, alone on her island, watches the same silver flicker on a different surface of the same sea. And the light that flickered in her heart? Has it fallen prey to the same dance of deterioration? Will I find the moon already extinguished in the sea of her breast? Eclipsed by the vainglorious sphere that was my haste to depart? The misguided course of this star-crossed corsaire pursuing a sinking star? Yesterday’s hero is the dark side of the earth facing the dark side of the moon, is darkness double, two-faced night’s faceless faces, an echo of existence which touches no ear, a shout across an infinite expanse, an unreciprocated smile, a source without destination, a word from the heart that never arrives.”
“My heart is an echo of the disintegration
of the heart of the universe
that penetrates and disintegrates my own heart.”
It’s time to practice reading, said the teacher. Virginia, will you begin on the first page? “Here is Spot,” read Virginia, “See Spot run. See Spot play. Funny, funny Spot.” Excellent! said the teacher.
O.k. “big-nose”, said the teacher, continue from page two hundred thirty two. “Twas brillig,” read Ditto, “and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe; all mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe…”
“Virginia,” said the teacher, “How much is three plus three?” “Three plus three,” said Virginia, “is six.” “Excellent,” said the teacher.
O.k., said the teacher, let’s have “big-nose” do the next one… Tell us, “big-nose”, how many arc seconds per century is the perihelion precession of Mercury relative to the earth, and what scientist provided the theory to explain this precession?
When I heard the learnèd school-marm;
when the proofs and figures were ranged in columns;
when I was shown the charts and diagrams,
to add, divide, and measure the heavens;
when I, sitting, heard the school-marm in the school house,
how soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
till rising and gliding out, I wandered off by myself,
into the mystical cool night-air, and from time to time,
looked up in perfect silence at the stars.
(altered from Walt Whitman)
My store is open! said Blurtso.
I don’t know, said Pablo, you may need more flags.
“Blurtso sings the donkey electric”
I sing the donkey electric!
A song of asses I sing, near and far!
Asses on hills, asses in fields, asses in herds,
more bountiful than the once-bountiful buffalo,
asses on land and asses at sea, asses short, skinny, fat and tall!
Multitudes of asses, spanning these star-spangled states!
I have perceived that to be an ass
is to be enough.
The ears of the ass are sacred, delicate,
twitching receptacles of sound,
assiduous antennae registering, recording all,
the hooves of the ass are no less
than the slippers of sultans
striding silken alfombras and seraglio stone,
the snout of the ass and his nostrils—a dual lamp
of Aladdin—inhaling flowery fragrance,
leading to wished-for fiestas of pumpkin pleasure,
the ass’s tail, though stumpy or small, and swatting flies,
is a palm fanning reclining Cleopatra,
his teeth, precious jade, are greened and polished
by the grass of a thousand fields,
his attentive eyes and friendly balance of features,
—courtly countenance and caryatid composure—
no less perfect than the visage of Helen.
Such asses I see, to the north and to the south!
From blistering bivouacs of winter
to blazing battalions of summer,
Patagonia to Peloponnese, Malibu to Manhattan,
Concord to Cambridge, every here
and every there, asses I see! Brown, grey,
yellow, red, purple, orange, azure asses!
Asses in other climes, asses in other times,
French, British, Australian, Arabian, Asian asses!
Eating every blade of grass, an ass!
Trampling every leaf that falls, a hoof!
Wading every stream that sings,
a snout, a snort, and a bray!
Hee-haw goes the jack!
Hee-haw goes the jenny!
Hee-haw go the judge and jury and judged!
Hee-haw from the dell! Hee-haw from the glen!
Hee-haw at mid-day! Hee-haw at the moon!
I see the resigned ass, bearing a load,
obeying the coax of his lord,
I see the boisterous ass braying,
in the barn, his bonny bray,
I see the amorous ass (of these there are many),
expressing exigencies by day and by night,
I see farms, fields, freeways and burgs,
each in their way, replete with asininities,
I see the asinine politician, professor, and poet,
each one leaving a brand on the asses of asses.
And the asses of yore, you ask, where are they
with their clip and clop on the stones of the street?
Les ânes voici! I say! Les ânes voici!
Heeding the whinny and neigh,
and ass-bray of the future!
What song do I sing? (you ask and I reply),
I sing the song of asses!
Certain, and stoic, and strong!
From each face an ass!
From each office, family, and farm!
Asses I sing! Avalanches of asses!
I sing! I sing a song of asses!
I sing the donkey electric!
Banana Pancakes – Jack Johnson
Blowing Away – Linda Ronstadt
Bookends – Paul Simon
America – Paul Simon
Brushfire Fairytales – Jack Johnson
Bubble Toes – Jack Johnson
Buckets of Rain – Bob Dylan
Don’ t Mess Around With Jim – Jim Croce
Fall Line – Jack Johnson
Feeling Groovy – Paul Simon
Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover – Paul Simon
Forever – Ben Harper
F- Stop Blues – Jack Johnson
Gone – Jack Johnson
Homeward Bound – Paul Simon
I’d Rather Hurt Myself – Roger Miller
Leaving On A Jet Plane – John Denver
I Know Where I’m Going – Traditional
Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye – Traditional
Kathy’s Song – Paul Simon
Landslide – Fleetwood Mac
My Own Two Hands – Ben Harper
No Other Way – Jack Johnson
Girl From The North Country – Bob Dylan
One More Cup Of Coffee – Bob Dylan
Posters – Jack Johnson
Sara – Bob Dylan
Scarborough Fair – Traditional
Shelter From The Storm – Bob Dylan
Shenandoah – Traditional
Tenderness – Paul Simon
The Least You Could Do – Ben Harper
Times Like These – Jack Johnson
Traffic In The Sky – Jack Johnson
We Had It All – B.W. Stevenson
Better Together – Jack Johnson
You Can Close Your Eyes – James Taylor
Your Loving Arms – Hank Williams
Song For The Asking – Paul Simon
Congratulations – Paul Simon
Sarah Maria – James Taylor
Believe In Your Dreams – Rudolph and Clarice
The city before the city
was the earth
before hands held it.
The dark soil breathed
and the grasses sang,
until they were strangled
with slow cement.
To construct their shelters
the people went to the hills
where they razed
the orchestra of the trees,
stripping their strings,
so the limbless trunks
could be stacked and sold,
and only silence remained
where the music had been.
Not satisfied with a single roof,
they hired bandits
to return with their blades
seeking the slow heart
of the sequoia.
The lawyers at their windows,
unable to see through the smog,
signed the death warrants
of the hills,
while the rest
sat stupidly in their homes,
watching the walls grow,
until there was no door
for day to enter,
no crack for the wind,
and the dim light remaining
was tinted and conditioned.
When their prisons were complete,
they thrust their hands
beneath the soil
and melted its singing metal
into the graceless lines
of their automobiles.
In the sudden haste
they went from house to house,
smelling of synthetics,
stepping out only long enough
to curse the wind’s breath
disheveling their hair.
They put wheels on their homes
and carried them
groaning up the canyon.
They spread like smoke
through the trees,
splashing the branches
with obscene shapes and sounds.
They stayed until dust rose
where there had been blossoms,
and engines roared
where there had been birds,
and the waters choked
on their sudden blackness.
They left their broken trail
of plastics and noise
until even the wind could not wash
their echo from the trees.
Oh Lizzy, if not for you
the seasons would surely die!
Your sweet hooves
stepped from the foam
like polished shells
washed upon the shore.
with the curl of the waves,
and your slow breath copied
its repeated rhythm and sway.
Your prints swirled in the tide,
and the jealous sea reached
to pull you back,
but its frothy fingers
touched only your heels,
then stretched and expired,
sinking in the sand.
Your hooves continued
over the hills and valleys,
moving in perfect balance
when the earth narrowed to a log
fallen across the stream.
They continued past the remains
of the beaver’s winter work,
along the unscarred path,
to the deer’s scented trail
that led secretly back
to the bank of the singing brook.
It was there your eyes learned
their color from the branches,
and stole the silver light
of the stone’s push upon the stream.
It was there your soul learned
the circling chase of the birds,
and your hair stole its aroma
from the cool in the shadows.
It was there your heart learned
the wisdom of the water.
When the wind
whispered your name
you followed it to the top of
a red-rock mountain.
It pressed its kiss against you,
sweeping the length of your snout,
and caressing with delicate patience
the curve and lilt of your ears.
braced against the wind,
the extending light caught
and filled your form
with its rising breath of fire.