Ströer Bros. & Howard Fine
The Black Knight
We’re all just walking each other home.—Ram Dass
Don’t cry because it’s over smile because it happened.—Dr. Seuss
“Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. A poem may be worked over once it is in being, but may not be worried into being.”
—Robert Frost (1939) ‘The Figure a Poem Makes’
The Story Of Our Livesby Mark StrandWe are reading the story of our lives,as though we were in it,
as though we had written it.
This comes up again and again.
In one of the chapters
I lean back and push the book aside
because the book says
it is what I am doing.
I lean back and begin to write about the book.
I write that I wish to move beyond the book.
Beyond my life into another life.
I put the pen down.
The book says: "He put the pen down
and turned and watched her reading
the part about herself falling in love."
The book is more accurate than we can imagine.—from “The Story of Our Lives” by Mark Strand
THE RED KNIGHT
"The red knight is symbolic of all the feelings of a typical teenage boy – uninhibited passion, rebellion, self-gratification, aggression, lust, desire for power. The red knight is out of control and dangerous, yet he is a source of great vitality and power that only needs a channel of greater maturity to hone himself."—from “David Deida and the three knights of Iron John” by Eivind Figenschau Skjellum
THE WHITE KNIGHT
"The red knight gives way to the white knight, who desires to save the world from all its ills. He longs for truth and justice. He wishes to be good and do good. He is an idealist. Yet, for all his good qualities, he is also naive and deluded. The white knight doesn't have the awareness to notice that many of the ills he wants to save the world from are projections of his own undealt-with traumas and desires, and so he goes on a crusade to save the world from that which he doesn't like in himself. He points his fingers at all the dragons of the kingdom, so that songs in his praise can be sung when he conquers them (something he spends significant mental energy fantasizing about). He is on the hunt for the virgin of light, so that he can save her and feel manly. The white knight prefers to see women as damsels in distress, knowing deep down that a mature woman is too much for him. Still, in real life, he often ends up with a woman that resembles his mother."—from “David Deida and the three knights of Iron John” by Eivind Figenschau Skjellum
THE BLACK KNIGHT
The black knight, however, “eats” his shadows and comes to a level of acceptance about his own flaws. There is a strong level of humanity, even humour, to the black knight and he surrenders control of his life to the acceptance of his woundedness and the inevitability of death. He becomes trustworthy, powerful and compassionate.—from “David Deida and the three knights of Iron John” by Eivind Figenschau Skjellucum
THE SONGS 63:23
(All lyrics by Howard Fine*)
01. Walden 2.0 — 2:04 (m. Hans P. Ströer)
* The spoken lyric of this song is the paragraph inscribed below by Henry David Thoreau.
“I went to the woods
because I wished to live deliberately,
to front only the essential facts of life,
and see if I could not learn
what it had to teach
and not, when I came to die,
discover that I had not lived.”
—Henry David Thoreau
This opening song is closer to an orchestral suite and any pop song. This third volume begins with the inscription from Henry David Thoreau’s early words “living deliberately” which has more recently been called “living mindfully.” I say that I have a box seat overlooking eternity. There is no longer anything to rush forward to, and nothing proactive to look back to, but moments to live each one in its own moment. Movement has not remained a goal, but an inevitable motion to an end at the doorstep of the greatest mystery through the door that accepts spirit and rejects flesh.
02. Tempest (m. Ernst Ströer) 2:18
silence is a solvent
Emerson says it’s so
let’s test firsthand and see
does awe support his claim?
The verses here lead in my listening to a contemplation like the Buddhist meditation on non self, or the melting down of nouns in The Cloud of Unknowing. This is a step or two further than Thoreau’s Walden attempted or achieved. Nomaden was a punk arrangement in jazz, Voodoo Travel a hybrid, but this Homeward is just a touch of electric bass and synth voices this side of a fully realized art-song orchestral score. This is drop dead gorgeous as a setting for this transcendental verse. Double reeds and string driven rhythm with the ominous depth of an accent from timpani. We are in grander territory now, worthy of this augmented orchestra and a deeper, wise, older Howard Fine!
03. Canopy (m. Hans P. Ströer) 2:48
as arrow of intention
with similars conversed
on themes few beings mention
but those whose bounds can burst
This “canopy” explores the body as “other” for a soul in transition. Howard references his body as a “meat mannequin my sham.” This state is mentioned in the warning preceding The Cloud and its mystic meditation. Perhaps this meditation is aided by a natural process. As Krishnamurti said to the druggy hippies among his followers: “Have they tried fasting?” The Ströer Bros have completely abandoned the limited means of of common pop for an orchestra of Ströers in an orchestra of Nonesuch quality.
04. Sacrament (m. Ernst Ströer) 2:47
A flurry of strings suspends time, and octave acoustic notes on piano ring out the toll of the bell. We contemplate further eternity in a grain of sand.
was poor chronicler’s lament
is our mere finite sphere
shall far sparkling firmament
may be forever near
Our ticket for the “big reveal” has a date and time too blurry to read just yet, but it is becoming clearer by the minute. We proceed at this stage, and I do speak from experience dear reader, with fear and trembling.
and old flesh self’s tenement
pierced by existential spear
revolve in referential fear!
05. Earthworm (m. Hans P. Ströer) 2:30
were poem a magic basket
a bushel ours to fill
what would it hold? just ask it
obliges all but will
* * *
the miracle is real
Einstein learned from Spinoza that there are two ways of looking at the world: Either there are no miracles, or Everything is a miracle. In this song, we side on the side of the latter and abandon the mean logic of the former.
be pure potentiality
to woo with wordless love
06. Scimitar (m. Ernst Ströer) 2:20
Scimitar: a saber having a curved blade with the edge on the convex side and used chiefly by Arabs and Turks.
my muse chose alabaster gown
imparts terse truths aslant
her votary eludes a town
for universe or ant
* * *
but let her daemon play through me
obeying hand lifts pen
* * *
if grammar brandished scimitar
plush rose enrobed keen bee
unbandaged wound grew words of scar
i’d fancy these were she
The simple drone synth orchestra supports to narrative here with the swell of major key great waves of significance in a rush of reassuring elevation like a rising tide. The muse has seldom been so directly addressed in words shared by a poet in public.
07. Levels (m. Hans P. Ströer) 3:00
cosmos comes laid in levels
on most good grain is grown
must we malnourished mortals
subsist by bread alone?
08. Mojo (m. Ernst Ströer) 3:14
We got a chugga chugga train fiddle montage thing going complete with the long thin orchestral bells!
If language is made up of images, then why not sentences of images without the sub-sequential wordy nugget pebbles? Howard has made friends with the rhythm of the words.
“Words alone are certain good.”
“I write for the rhythm of the words, if you get anything else out of it, that’s your problem!”
—Samuel Beckett (not a sourced quote, but one I have taken to be true for a couple of decades)
09. Dagger (m. Hans P. Ströer) 2:18
Ask not for whom the bell tolls, there is a bell tapped regular, that should be enough.
priests in parrot-plume headdresses
astronomers in tow
scaled fourfold ninety-one terraces
while condors wheeled below
There are words Howard said with the “time passing” music was playing. It ends with a forbidden thing — to mention art in an art song. Yet there it is:
yet throbs its Aztec iambic prayer
to the gory gods of art
Rules were broken in the making of this music.
10. Devi (m. Ernst Ströer) 2:19
Devi is the Sanskrit word for ‘goddess’; the masculine form is deva. Devi and Deva mean heavenly, divine, anything of excellence, and are also gender specific terms for a deity in Hinduism.
old ocean’s hushSounds like Howard is out to do some sort of seduction, but knowing Fine this most likely seduces a Goddess, muse or concept more than any fleshy form. Maybe yes? Maybe no? Sure thing there is more than a touch of sense here, in the shape of sense somewhat, sensual anyway. I am certain there is truth in this song, because a “banjo of truth” has been employed to lock in the truthiness.
moon’s mystic pull
fill shell fill skull
heart’s heath grows lush
11. Zephyr (m. Hans P. Ströer) 1:45
a residue of solitude
settles toward the soul
whilst zephyr’s load of quietude
stealthier than owl
drifts patiently as parable
through benthic rifts of brain
enciphering serene prelude
just apprehended if at all
on planes beyond explain
My response definitely has to be from Steven Stills, for what it’s worth:
There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
—from “For What It’s Worth” by Steven Stills
Worth noting here, the music is a reverie and a fantasy of high strings drone and fast-bowed time suspending flutter and fight. Howard sounds hoarse from thinking or feeling. His voice is worn, and his thought is out.
12. Moth (m. Ernst Ströer) 3:16
A violin timepiece not unlike something by Steve Reich played by the Kronos String Quartet with a high wind instrument soaring significantly like the theme from Close Encounters might do set an ominous tone. Howard is his storytelling best. This is so lush, it is hard to imagine the same outfit made Nomaden with its confrontational assault of jazz. This is decidedly Classical from the Classical period of Classicism though woven into a strict fabric of minimalism like a shroud. The dark deep bass greets and delights my T5 Edifier subwoofer like they were old friends. Time and trance dance a waltz in this violin phase.
yarns we spin of heartstring
span on memory
fray with every telling
13. Ink (m. Hans P. Ströer) 3:07
The orchestration here bespeaks an exposition in search of a denouement. Each musical phrase on some lute or ancient guitar or lyre tells the tight little cabinetry skilled story of a perfect little music box. This is a teaching song intoning truth with spooky ghost tones filling out the song setting. Howard is not hoarse now, but sonorous baritones deliver word pictures in his patently sentences made of objects subjectively revealed.
enter empty space
voider having done it
this trips jaws of ice
gnaw through paw and shun it
more chart’s blank all bare
through vastness beckons still
portray this who dare
with inkless brush or quill
Maybe this is invisible ink. Like you know written in lemon juice, and seen later if you heat it with a match. Or maybe there is nothing on the page to see, but there was meaning there once you know. You can just feel it. But you can see it or read it. Good luck! Those instructions might have saved your life. Maybe not. I made that up.
14. Tongue (m. Ernst Ströer) 1:54
Heehaw! We got ourselves a pizzicato barn dance number with a warn feel and some traveling music for a group dance number! Grab your partner, do si do! Couples dance! Ladies choice!
dark and day undulate
until we undo time
will and wits interlace
unless we leave their loom
15. Crescent (m. Hans P. Ströer) 3:06
Piano time passing percussion tones and a xylophone tone. Tick tock tick tock. Orchestra chiming in. Then resolve into a river of flow.
Who are you?
I asked my soul
A crescent crossed her face
Where do you dwell?
Beyond where-when’s embrace
This gibberish is too resonant to be nonsense, but we are a little out of the realm of logic bound discourse. Sometimes words get fancy to describe the indescribable. Yep. That’s the ticket.
16. Abyss (m. Hans P. Ströer) 1:47
Little march time deal plucked in part and piano twirled but it definitely has a few dancing sugarplums or dates with nuts inside dancing.
abyss no path
by lips’ broad swath
vast verb hordes mass
“The limits of our language is the limit of our word,” so says Wittgenstein, but what of nonsense contradiction, couldn’t that pass the brain-sense barrier?
17. Rune (m. Ernst Ströer) 1:51
swells globe of furrowed shell
sprouts nobly bilobed leaf
Well that is botany, of a sort. The music goes all march of progress fiddles and vibraphone then double reeds. Symphonic self-improvement in botany suggested here. Have we devolved into a simple time where life will be great again?
18. Blaze (m. Hans P. Ströer) 2:36
were i a bird who might i be
would i be heard melodiously
or screech and squawk from dawn till night
my raucous talk man’s echoed plight
We are exploring possible subsequent forms of earlier evolutionary life available after the walk into eternity. Cycle of life. That sort of thing, now, aren’t we? Sounds nice. If you are sick of your body, why not come back as a bird? Yeah, the percussion starts that rapid echo bouncy effect, but right soon after the orchestra goes somewhere into the heart for a dip. A little warmth. And hoarse Howard is back to give a broken intimacy.
each bird’s a phase i’d ably be
did i not blaze eternally!
19. Echo (m. Hans P. Ströer) 2:50
now we know a shadow
next a guided knife
then soon a sun
akin to none
in all this twilit life
* * *
now we know a shadow
next a mowing knife
then soon a sun
akin to none
in all this floating life
First and last stanzas are parallel but different — which always means the difference is the meaning of the poem. There has been development to be interpreted as altered repetition functions subtly as the first and second Acts of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot. In that play, the difference was a diminishing humanity. Not that same declension here, I see. You have the tools to feel through the changes in those five-line verses. They will mean what you mean, like a mirror, if you let them take you true. We are confronting the one with the scythe, I believe, and grass or grain will be felled to a purpose. Take your meaning where you find it.
20. Homeward (m. Hans P. Ströer) 3:14
Watch out! Title cut a comin’.
I lost my nerve, my boxing gloves,
half a dime of dope
lost my shirt, then lost my love
with her — damn! — my best hope
* * *
Show and tell, show and tell.
Saturday, Christ harrows hell
Show and tell, show and tell.
Saturday nights, Christ hallows hell.
Sounds to me like some sort of confessional, whether the corner bar storytelling wallow through regret, or some sober group to confess and find a step up some sort of things. Sounds like the bar, and somebody got themselves hurt right to the sense of self, you ask me.
Lost and found. Lost and found.
Hosanna! We’re homeward bound!
Lost and found. Lost and found.
Hosanna! Hey, we’re homeward bound!
Now maybe this is another confessional moving toward some lugubrious slide toward a sobering. “Lost the last place I could hide.” Okay I’ve lived through that. “I told myself enough’s enough.” Well, now. I hope it takes. You can lose a weekend that kind of thing. Lose a life, you don’t watch out. I don’t think this is quite so literal. I believe there is a bigger Kierkegaardian leap of faith somewhere in the mix, but I am already swimming through assumption toward the drain.
21. Beamstruck (m. Ernst Ströer) 2:13
Just the title leads me to a conclusion this is some sort of Damascus Road experience. Oh blinding light! Oh light that blinds! I cannot see! Look out for me! (Apologies to the Firesign Theater.) The percussion story music here is Western Kabuki puppet show style, with the banjo of truth and some formula scaredy cat suspensions.
deprived of hidden wheels dials die
like lives divorced from dreaming
so surfaces might gleaners guide
to sweeter hives of meaning
why the wiser wear a welder’s mask?
scry visorless then ask
Protective gear, I guess, from the blinding light. But I really don’t rightly know. There is a Kurt Weil Brechtian dramatic percussion dance that tells the story here. And it is loaded with wisdom, unless the banjo lies? NO! Banjos don’t lie.
22. PhathOm (m. Hans P. Ströer) 2:00
Well now! I see the word here styled as “PhathOm” and it looks like “phantom” but it sounds like “fathom” and it seems rich with meaning, but the dictionary will be of no help whatsoever.
void no view to visualize
sheer zero seemed abstract
here one plain page in two hands lies
all three deemed natural fact
* * *
each world a whirl a coiling in
self too diminished dial
become some now own origin
immortal Apple Isle
The sense I sense is in the sound and rhythm as well. “Apple Isle” feels significant, but I can’t get to the core of its meaning. See what I did there?
23. JourneYe (m. Ernst Ströer) 8:34
The book of poems that Homeward comes from is called “eYe” and it stands alone with the song built into each verse. The “JourneYe” here is a nod to the literary work by Howard Fine, independent of this musical journey.
This one tells a story of the start of a philosophical journey.
journeYe begins with wish for elsewhereI take this to be a contemplation of the nature of thought itself, and the journeYe of breath and breadth of thought and devotion/emotion/intention. To connect with the breath is to connect with the body, and that always leads to following. The breach Nomaden boy with his certain and intention now disconnected from his “smart phone” to find his “self” as indefinable as it ever was. Howard finds a quieter home where being is enough to dance the only dance their is with into and out to and inward and outward breadth.
pulse behind breast is power is motor
turn emotion to devotion
turn attention to intention
24. Carnival (m. Hans P. Ströer) 2:17
my script now nears its end
i’d love to ad lib more
your company’s been wonderful
but i’ve outworn my page
it soothes to have a friend
and wit to share before
the Keeper of this carnival
insists we act our age
to leave you entertained
i’ve rhymed one last encore
that closes this dress rehearsal
it’s time i climbed on stage
crashed comets brought meltwater
novae’s blasts ashes and dust
these mixed to make amoebas
and they next shaped apes
cunning thumbs tamed wolves and fire
heat hovels and blue globe
split hairs and heavy atoms
The orchestral sound trills and the woodwind hovers to keep this song as a cloud for the poem. See here that Howard sees this life as a dress rehearsal for something more. All the evolutionary “progress” how seems a prelude for the next world. How will the next episode begin? We don’t get to know, and those who know are never allowed to say. Something “next” is best we get to know.
25. Juju (m. Ernst Ströer) 2:00
The elephantine march of progress overture gives way to a tabla three mile run!
hippocampi crown whitecaps
when light and luck conspire
salamanders caulk black gaps
among quick tongues of fire
sasquatches dwarf sequoias
spied by shamans’ eyes
shoeless yogins view Himalayas
as shy yeti’s disguise
few embark to navigate
clandestine through dark valves
that permeably demarcate
whole cosmos in three halves
pulls know this focal shift
invokes impromptu juju
who’ll spark fuse of witch’s gift
shape switches from fro to to
Now, I am going to consider that abundantly clear and let it sit where it is in your consciousness. Let us say the music was significant, and the words resonated, and what it is ain’t exactly clear. Stop! Hey, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down. It may be later than you think. You aren’t what you think, you know. You are what you do. Do better. Be better. The only self you have is the sum of what you do. Do be, do be! Scooby Do!
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