Richibi’s Weblog

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Month: April, 2008

in defense of an intractable idiom

a friend wrote: 

        ” ‘…in unforgettable spades’? “, about my “April Showers” text, which you can find below

         ‘ Words chosen in innocence or humour? ‘, he asks


I reply:

neither innocent, dear Ted, nor humourous, just inadvertent, I let myself be ruled by my enthusiasm for the punchy and precise idiom   
even as I watched the movie I felt shame for a place, a country, that could’ve inspired such a situation
transformed by Al Jolson however into a glorious tribute no less to still so beleaguered a people, imitation being of course the surest and sincerest form of flattery

I think Al Jolson helped put their art on the map, up from the cotton fields and speakeasies to which it’d been relegated, if not other countries, other even continents
he was great back then, this movie inspired even a sequel, nominated also for Oscars, winning a couple even for the first, one for of course its irresistible, unforgettable music

thanks to Black America

                                                                                                                                                                         thank you Black America





1564, April 23



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      a friend wrote:

       “1564, April 23, Happy Birthday Shakespeare.

         Have a great day”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      have a wonderful day


psst: thanks, Wendy



“April Showers”

    “Let me sing a funny song with crazy words that roll along
     And if my song can start you laughing I’m happy, so happy”
I hadn’t seen this show in over forty years, I’d loved it then but who knew what I’d think of it now, I’d found it and its sequel for $2.99 apiece in a secondhand music store on videocassette no less, my only option now even at that low price since I’ve despaired of all DVD’s for being ornery, intractable too often, despite their vaunted versatility, all I ever wanted anyway was the movie, you can keep the superfluous dross
I thought I’d see it with my mom, who’d love, I was sure, the nostalgia, we watched it together last night
Asa Yoelson is picked up in a vaudeville act by an impresario who recognizes his unmistakable talent, turns him into the great Al Jolson, Larry Parks delivers the part in unforgettable spades, neither had they been forgotten
the biography is of course adulterated, each step towards success turned into instead a song, but what songs, each a masterpiece, each a part of our musical heritage, I walked home under a big round moon singing “April Showers”
    “Though April showers may come your way
      They bring the flowers that bloom in May
      So if it’s raining, have no regrets
      Because it isn’t raining rain, you know
      It’s raining violets”
    “And where you see clouds upon the hills
      You soon will see crowds of daffodils
      So keep on looking for a blue bird
      And list’ning for its song”
      Whenever April showers come along”
this evening as I walked the few blocks over to my mom’s under the blossoming cherry trees there was not a hint of rain, a breeze barely ruffled the russet and lime leaves that have been sprouting and burgeoning irrepressibly on the trees, where just recently there ‘d been only stark, brittle branches
birds sang as I indulged my own warble
     “So keep on looking for a blue bird”, I intoned,
     “And list’ning for its song
      Whenever April showers come along”
psst: “The Jolson Story“, “Jolson Sings Again” 




dinner out

                                 The Birth of Venus, c.1482-1486
                                              Sandro Botticelli
                                                                                                                                       these earlier “back tracks”, of which the following is one example, are pieces I consider still to be worth your while
                                                                                                                                      please enjoy                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                dinner out:
                                                                                                                                     the night was clear, a slender moon shone in an indigo sky, I thought instead of staying in and watching Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Tony Randall, and a gay-as-a-goose Paul Lynde in “Pillow Talk” in German I´d venture out instead the day after all after Christmas to find a place to eat, preferably something Italian, I had in mind a restaurant I´d visited when I’d been in Dresden last that might be open, it was
                                                                                                                                        a place for one, I asked somewhat meekly, if you have one, and pointed to a table in a corner that seemed unoccupied, I´d worried about reservations on the special occasion that was that night, but the table was free, and rendered somewhat grudgingly, I suspected, where a couple at least would´ve been more, to their mind, worthy
                                                                                                                                        I sat at a table that could’ve been cleaner, whisked it off with a brush of my hand, a candle on the checked red and white tablecloth in the very colours of Christmas in the otherwise dim light made me overlook the slight if unconscionable inconvenience
                                                                                                                                     cutlery arrived and a soft but sturdy napkin, on a silver platter no less, that I felt would duly resolve the remiss, I spread the serviette, folded primly under, on my lap, sipped an excellent Valpolicella while I waited for the main service, a green salad that I would have, I asked, in concert with the fettucine, not on the same plate of course, I had to explain, but that I would enjoy at its side, a delicious pasta with salmon and yellow asparagus in a light cream sauce
                                                                                                                                        I was left to my own private devices, the restaurant was full, the staff busy, I savoured the endives, the steaming and succulent main course, indifferent to the indifferent service, but precise nevertheless about a second glass of wine
                                                                                                                                      out of nowhere, or out of a fantasy perhaps, once many of the early diners had departed and many of the tables had been cleared, a woman, or rather a vision, had arrived, was seated across from me alone at her own private table, I was entranced, I rarely see women eat alone in any even moderately elegant restaurants, they´ve always expressed fear and modesty, I´ve always thought that so impractical
                                                                                                                                      she seemed alone, so conscientious, so present yet so dependent upon the courtesy and good will of her suitors, whoever they might turn out to be, I saw Botticelli´s Venus being born from the waters, aquiver but unaware yet of any possible adversity
                                                                                                                                      the waiter, an older gentleman, who´d been merely polite to me, tended attentively to her graces, she opened to him a defenseless smile trusting his recommendations, she turned her neck, nubile as a swan´s, back to the menu´s pages pondering them closely as though they were priceless art, pointing out with a querying finger an item, hoping tentatively for clarification
                                                                                                                                      he was of course obsequious
                                                                                                                                    later she sipped her wine, tasted her food with elegance, poise, poetry
                                                                                                                                        I watched mesmerized
what should I do, what should I say, I wondered, should I let the moment pass, knowing full well that I could never tell this story if I were simply to walk away
                                                                                                                                        I practiced my German rendition as I savoured my second glass of red wine, the waiter had taken my fee, been politely inquisitive about my whereabouts, Vancouver, I of course replied, on the Canadian Pacific, where they´ll soon hold the Winter Olympics, so far from home it´s a surprise to find that some have no idea
                                                                                                                                        I sipped my last drop, stood up, but the server had returned to her table, I sat back, waited for him to move away
                                                                                                                                          I left my coat at my table, boldly crossed over to her side, excuse me, I started in German, entschuldigen Sie mich bitte, if I could have a moment of your time, German, French, English, I will speak what I must, but I suspected that so bold an apparition would speak English, my muses would have created that, or maybe some arcane but serendipitous nevertheless cultural affinity
                                                                                                                                        I don´t wish to offend you, I said, and I´ll be gone in just a moment, but I´ve seen you, watched you from my distance eating all alone the day after Christmas, I think I´m something of a poet, I´ve seen your grace, your poise, your poetry, you are a poem to me, I needed to tell you that, I thought this would bring you some enjoyment, I hope you will forgive me if I´ve been too brash
                                                                                                                                    thank you, she said, thank you, her eyes gleamed, shimmered, her hair soft, I´m sure, as sunlight, glowed in the golden candlelight, I noticed her russet freckles
                                                                                                                                        I took my leave, turned my back to her as I donned my scarves and winter coat against the winter cold, moved towards the door
                                                                                                                                          I waved a last goodbye, she waved back

Raphael – The Sistine Madonna

  Raffael 051.jpg                 

                          Sistine Madonna, c.1512-1514




                                                                                                                                      in my search for what is beautiful, in my unending, my unyielding quest for the sublime, I’ve come upon many things that ‘ve been awesome, before the Venus de Milo I trembled, stood silent, reverent before her incandescent aura, in consternation before her shimmering grace, marvelled that time alone, I supposed, and magnificence could so irradiate, create actual energy
in Dresden the Sistine Madonna did the same, the only other work ever to so palpably illuminate

during the late Beethoven string quartets I cried, especially the fourteenth, but who wouldn’t, they are masterpieces
on first looking into Homer I confirmed indeed the promise of Keatsnearly subscribed to the gods of Olympus, would’ve converted to their convincing myths, but Proust finally remains my true religion, the reflection of all I believe, the poet aspiring to be a philosopher, the philosopher aspiring to be a poet, where Truth and Beauty inextricably intermix, interweave and inspire  

for a while I had my doubts, art, music, literature seemed seductive enough, even important, but not urgent, not necessary, there would be life without art, I rued, but hadn’t been able to pursue it further

then in a revelation someone somewhere said, without art there would be no civilization, and I regained forthwith my faith

earnestly I’ve returned to its service

                                                                                                                                     yours in art                                                                                                                                                                    richibi



to Greg – October 21, 2004

these earlier “back tracks”, of which the following is one example, are pieces I consider still to be worth your while

please enjoy                   


October 21, 2004                                                                                                                                                           Vancouver, B.C.   

                                                                                                                                                                  gold and russet leaves, dear Greg, rustling in the wake of a serendipitous wisp of wind, glittering and glistening in the crisp, clear autumn light, skateboarders’ silhouettes skimming along the edge of a ruffled ocean, sleak as the flight of the birds above, inspired an otherwise gray day, the sun has been out only in patches
                                                                                                                                                                 after a truly therapeutic massage yesterday and a promise to my physiotherapist then to resume my too long interrupted exercises I started the day after some Proust of course and, I confess, also some irresistible Shakespeare – where a piteous Arthur, a boy who should be king, pleads of his executioner not to have his eyes pierced by hot irons, “cut out my tongue”, he says, “So I may keep mine eyes: O, spare mine eyes.” – I started the day at the gym doing a good run of vigorous exercises, a sure sign of a reinvigorated spirit, I’m returning to health and life

and to continue the day as though it were my last I lunched luxuriously afterwards instead of eating at home, on eggs and wine, a newspaper and a coffee, at my usual beachfront restaurant before heading out to Wendy’s where we were to read any old Shakespeare this time, I’d given her the choice, which turned out to be “The Merchant of Venice”, she thought, she said, she’d like that, imagining especially Venice, and also, I think, cause I’d mentioned that the movie, well reviewed, should be coming out next month

I smoked a joint along the way to her place along the water, where the “gold and russet leaves”, the “skateboarders’ silhouettes”, the “flight of the birds above”, left their wistful impression

then after a passionate discourse at her place on art, inspired I’m sure by the puff, and some references admittedly to my wounded heart, which she took in with great concern and compassion, I read

at first of course the language was rough and unfamiliar – a thicket of words, a bramble of indecipherable locutions – but as together we sorted out the subjects from the verbs, the art within the convolutions, we discovered poetry and enchantment, I’d told her to tell me if she got bored, uninterested – it should be fun, exhilarating, art, inspirational – but we made it to the end, Act 1, scene 1, it took two hours, Antonio’s ships were out, his friend Bassanio needed money to woo the lovely but expensive Portia and so was steered toward the city’s moneylenders to borrow on his friend Antonio’s assurance

Shylock, the famous Jew, nor for that matter Portia, have appeared yet

later at home after some television I determined to answer your letter, another sign of returning health

I hope you will enjoy my composition

I imagine you adrift in London, impressed and agog at so much of the history and the institutions, thick as traffic everywhere, even the city’s air and colours seem suffused with the stains and strains of a crotchety but golden nevertheless antiquity, a walk along the Thames suggests a time too long ago before it even all began, before there even was a London, and any street will conjure Dickens, Conan Doyle, and if you’re lucky and literate, even himself the Elizabethan Shakespeare, while Big Ben dependably tolls out in a deep reverberant voice not only the hours but the very centuries

I hope you won’t miss a thing

you are in my thoughts of course, and prayers






1, e. e. cummings

among poets one of my favourites is e. e. cummings, who famously eschewed – gesundheit – capitals, even in the spelling of his own name

for years for my own reasons I did the same, I felt that capitals usurped a power, an authority, they too often could not justify, I was left with “God” and “I” as worthy and warranted entities, often even “God” wouldn’t cut it, and was relegated to the more pedestrian lower case “god”, which led of course to “gods”, and incidentally to a more luxuriant and panoplied pantheon, a heaven richer in colour and idiosyncracies than our own culture’s usual abnegations

this process had me probing each item’s validity in order to make some sense of my too fleeting world

there are still not many capitals in my compositions

e. e. cummings does many more things with language than I do, but I cannot tell you where any of his impulses come from, I am left with only his poems

but a poem should need nothing else

most of his poems for me don’t, in order to enchant
                                                                                                                                                                      here’s something I came upon serendipitously as I waited on a friend in a bookstore, I thought I’d pass the few minutes I had to wait browsing through books of poems, one takes just that much time to savour a poem, not much more usually than a glass of wine, sometimes they’re even memorable

this poem is taken from a chapter entitled “Erotic Poetry” in a collection edited by Richard Kostelanetz called “AnOther”

which I  bought

it is the first poem in that section, and titled merely “1”

                                                                                                                                                                        out of bigg

est the knownun
on tiptoe darkne


into a s

ld 2 to

be blessed by
shadows of ove

r us-you-me a



e. e. cummings  (1894-1962)


this kind of thing has a precedent of course in the work of James Joyce (1882-1941), his “Finnegan’s Wake” goes on for several hundred pages in this manner, and left me for one in the dust

in music Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951) was also deconstructing his medium, breaking down musical notation into seemingly random organizations of sound, atonality eschewed – gesundheit – most all of the rules of earlier composition, presciently making way however for everything from the shrieking guitar
meanderings of Jimi Hendrix to the vocal pyrotechnics and eccentricities of Prince through the clanging and oracular pronouncements of Pink Floyd

neither Joyce nor Schönberg can be easily dismissed

nor e. e. cummings

all the very best




a welcome inspiration

these earlier “back tracks”, of which the following is one example, are pieces I consider still to be worth your while

please enjoy                                                                                  


                                                                                                                                                                    March 15, 2006 

                                                                                                                                                                      as though the fire were out I was finding no spark of inspiration lately, though spring now, and some verve, have conspired at last to reignite my flailing prose

not even that I couldn’t match the noun to an apt and attractive adjective, that I couldn’t find the time or case of an ornery verb, that the metre of an iambic was perhaps recalcitrant or the lilt of an onomatopeia tired and worn, but rather and more decidedly, more fatally finally for my few sputtering words, for my flagging, foundering vowels, for my crumbling, turncoat consonnants, that were deserting me in droves, that I couldn’t turn open even the page, couldn’t find my way even to the paper that would allow me to write, to fill the vast waste of whiteness at my hand with the bouquets of wild and fragrant flowers that usually I find along the path of my itinerant imagination

this is no longer, evidently, the case

the ink is again flowing, the spring of art is in the air along with the spring of sap and blossoms

today I drew fleurs-de-lys on my walls, heraldically, which I’ll anoint in several colours to stand out against the variety of colours painted there already, I live in an array of colours, just like in a fairy tale

yesterday, to enhance that fancy, I received a mirror, a beautiful mirror, its craftsman told me it is made to reflect specifically one’s inner beauty

what if that could be

perhaps that craftsman ‘s a magician

he was at least a wise man

and a welcome inspiration