Full Circle

NOYOKO Band collage

 

40 summers ago a painfully shy and nerdy kid picked up his brother’s acoustic guitar and fell in love. The first songs learned in this lifelong romance were all by the Beatles.

Other than a song or two in a gig here and there, I have never performed them live. These songs are powerful; they have informed my art and craft from day one. If you listen to the songs I have written, the DNA of the Beatles are woven into their very fabric, however pale the imitation. Tonight I’ll play 90 minutes of ALL Beatles tunes with my friends and band mates in NOYOKO at the Workplay Theatre in Birmingham Alabama.

It feels like I’ve come full circle. My career (such as it is) has been changing and changed greatly…and with this concert it feels like a chapter has come to a close.

“And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make”

After tonight, music for me will never be the same again.

 

Looking For the Uncloudy Day

2014 Dusking

 

Social media can be a wonderful tool. It can provide great entertainment, or provide a platform to spew and spleen. But so easy to overlook the very real people at the other end of a post. I can post an emoticon that reads “feeling sad/angry/blah”…and we glance and scroll on past to kitten videos or the latest thing/person we hate.

Today and tonight I’m feeling overwhelmed. No cute emoji…no insightful meme. Overwhelmed…by change and loss and uncertainty. My faith in Christ promises eventual comfort, but in this moment the reality is far from the promise of an uncloudy day.

Remember today all who stumble under the weight of their burdens. Prayers for those who know in their head that tomorrow is not promised and are living today with little to no hope in their heart.

A Song of Ice & Fire

These days (weeks/months) I’ve been trying to write. But not just write, but to do so with candor and courage. And every single time, I’m finding myself either playing it safe, or editing out the dangerous parts. Cleaning it up or hiding behind metaphor to make it “universal.”

To write something less than truth means I’m either a coward or a liar. I’m not really sure which is worse…

Perhaps it’s both, really.

Jesus was right. Lukewarm lyrics or words or even a life makes you want to puke…

But in the dark hours of the night, and in the heat of the afternoon, thoughts roll out that alternately freeze the marrow or sear the soul, sometimes all at once. Icy clarity joins with fiery passion and the result are words/lyrics/poetry that must find some release…or else.

Hot or cold. Take your pick.

Metaphor still reigns, but the feelings are real. One day if I ever grow up, I’ll use big boy words to tell the story. For now, play the game with me one more time…

Do you wanna play a game?
How about pretend?
There’s no hurt, no pain
Just the illusion I maintain
And fear whispering the end is close at hand
So one day I’ll cross the river
Pay the ferryman his fee
I’ll collect my last belongings
The memories of me

Only to Remember

Only to Remember

No new words fall from these lips
Only tears fall from these eyes
A heart in shadow, a life eclipsed
By a hurt I can’t reconcile

A loss of innocence and a lost horizon
Bookends that the thieves left behind
A lonely denizen of a failed uprising
Abandoning the dream to pay the cost
Only to remember all that’s lost

Rachael’s Grief Revisited

I originally published this poem in September of last year, and again in December. There are no new words I could summon to ward off the ghosts of loss that haunt this long night…

This day is done, the years grow long

No words remain in verse or song

The hope of mercy and grace revealed

Is lost in pain of wounds unhealed

In the distance a hollow wail

Rachel’s grief for a dream that failed

How long until the promising

How long until the day

When despair is a mere memory

And tears are wiped away?

Running on Empty

EB Erwin track

I used to be a runner.

That may be difficult to believe, especially given my current girth and atomic weight…okay, perhaps atomic is too far. Nonetheless, I am “more man” than I’ve ever been.

And you’d never wager that a kid born with a club foot, with more surgeries you could shake a crutch at, would have a chance to run track…in junior high no less.

But truth is always stranger than fiction. In the days before music captured me, I loved to run and walk, literally for miles. Most Saturdays would find me walking or riding my bike from my house in Center Point to a bookstore I loved in Huffman (about 5 miles each way).

In junior high, I loved when track season came in PE. It was great to be outside, but it was just thrilling to do something where I actually didn’t suck! We did the entire package of races and sprints, etc. I think the coaches liked to see who might be potential candidates for the school track team. I loved the short distance events, as I never had the stamina or patience to do the long-distance stuff. I’d burn out early, invariably wanting to lead the pack, only to watch as the smarter and more disciplined runners would pass me by, one by one.

Despite counsel and encouragement from my PE coach to run smarter, and to even try out for the track team, it was my stupid pride and lack of belief that cost me that dream.

I may have more in common with Forrest Gump than I want to admit, but I can no longer ‘run like the wind blows…’

I used to run…

Now I’ve found myself in a different race. Music has been my life and love for 40 years…ironically, the ultimate marathon.

But I’ve come to a strange and unexpected moment:

You realize that you haven’t been in a marathon.

You wake up to find yourself in a relay race, and you’ve passed the baton about a hundred yards back.

And you’ve continued to run anyway, empty-handed.

Running on empty indeed…

What remains is to watch others race ahead, breaking the tape…and winning the prize.

Postscript:

It’s been a couple of hours since I completed this entry, and I’ve re-read it more than a few times.

The ending is bulls**t.

Despair evokes a multitude of feelings and emotions. There is a part of me that wants to lay down the burden, to drop out…just simply give up.

But there is also a part of me that is deeply angry at the very thought of giving up what I’ve based my beliefs and my very life upon. I don’t want to give up. Every race ends and you can’t win sometimes. But no one enters a race to lose.

So I live between the struggle to bow to the inevitable, or to feel the finish line tape breaking across my chest.

I wish I knew the outcome. I wish I could tell you that I’m strong enough to endure.

At this moment I am running on empty. God grant the renewal of strength to mount up like eagles…

Mercy Street

It was a sound that shot straight through me. It was a keening cry of fear…

I had entered the grocery store to pick up a few items, but my heart and mind were preoccupied. My spirit was already raw and bleeding, and unprepared for what happened next.

A little girl, maybe seven or eight years old, was being forcibly carried/dragged through the aisle toward the exit. The mother was visibly angry…no, pissed off and embarrassed by her daughter. I have no idea just what could have happened to cause such a scene, but people nearby were frozen in their tracks, not wanting to stare but unable to turn away.

The moment was more than likely just that; a mere moment. But it felt like an eternity as mother and daughter struggled. I could see the mother forcing gritty words through gritted teeth, but I couldn’t catch their sound. There was no way to hear, as the girl’s cries drowned out everything else, literally begging…

“I’ll be good, Momma…I promise! Please don’t…please don’t!”

It was a hard sight, but a terrible sound…the sound of heartbreak, as a little girl was begging and pleading her momma for mercy.

My hands and heart were trembling as I shuffled through the store. My mind raced back to all the times I cried out as a child, lost and lonely in seeming abandonment. To the times of seeing fists fly in rage against an elder sibling, his punishment far exceeding the crime. To the times of fear and shame for things beyond my understanding and control.

I remember all the sounds all too well…every single one.

The Easter season reminds us that the cost of mercy is paid with bruises and blood.

Her cries echoed as they neared the exit, and then faded away, replaced by bland music and in-store announcements, and the beating of my bruised and bleeding heart.

Have mercy…

Hello, It’s Me…

It's me GV

Hello, it’s me. I haven’t seen you in a while, I know.

I’ve been looking back at my posts the last long while. Whether scraps of lyric, the dark poem or two, or general ramblings, they share a theme of being painful to read. I suppose that’s because there’s a great deal of “stuff” being dealt with these days. I admire the folks who courageously speak the truth in love, but sadly I struggle to find even the little bravery required by my cryptic characters. To be honest, there IS pain. It seems as though everything I touch turns to dust. For my half dozen or so readers out there, forgive my lack of trust by not being more transparent, as there are so many things I want to share. As a musician I understand all too well that timing is everything.

I still believe in Grace and Mercy, and regularly bombard the throne with heartfelt supplication. So far, God’s phone number rings and goes to voicemail. But I’m old enough and have seen enough to have faith even still. But if you ask what these answers look like? I’d be lying if I claimed to know. I always tend to doubt myself first and foremost, and for me the line between faith and stubborn pride can blur…

Prayers appreciated but please don’t bombard me with inquiry. For all my bluster I am painfully private. Add that to the list of failings for sure.

More to come in coming days. Thank you for reading at the very least. While all this may not seem like much in the grand scheme, for me it’s huge.

Let me hit ‘publish’ before doubt and cowardice sing their songs over me…

GV