Wednesday, March 31, 2010

fragments (witness)

Steady rhythms
Passionate and honest
Truth established
without exaggeration.

An incantation

resurrection of one.
annihilation of
the ignorant
who stood
in awe
in horror

oh mighty lord.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

fragments (self)

The selves
now have selves

Once more
I'm forced
to reveal
what I should have
happily taken
to the grave.

Instead, I
gave it away
a chance to be understood.

To find
might be

Drawn from
the bones of
dead religions.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Charles Mingus: The Underdog Triumphs

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.”

                          -Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus recorded over one hundred albums and wrote three hundred scores during his lifetime, making him one of the most prodigious jazz composers since Duke Ellington. His contributions to jazz and music in general are vast, passionate, and complex. Though all of Mingus' recordings were part of a musical evolution, the albums Pithecanthropus Erectus (1956), Mingus Ah Um (1959), Mingus Dynasty (1959), Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963), and Let My Children Hear My Music (1972), contain his most compelling and brilliant recordings.

Pithecanthropus Erectus was released in 1956 on Atlantic Records. The title track of the album tells the tale of the rise and fall of man, do in part to his own arrogance, in the form of a ten minute experimental tone poem, featuring a section that is completely free of structure or theme. The song is considered a precursor for the experiments in composition that would come along with the free jazz movement of the 1960's.

Mingus Ah Um and Mingus Dynasty were both released by Columbia records in 1959 are high points of Mingus' creative powers. The compositions on Mingus Ah Um, all but one written by Mingus, pay strong tribute to to Charles' musical forefathers, including Lester Young (Goodbye Pork Pie Hat), Duke Ellington (Open Letter to Duke), and Jelly Roll Morton (Jelly Roll). Mingus Ah Um is a gritty blues based album featuring Better Get Hit In Your Soul and the outwardly political Fables of Faubus. The version on the album is instrumental because Columbia Records wouldn't release the original version that contained inflammatory lyrics that attacked the Segregationist Governor of Arkansas Orval Faubus for using the National Guard to prevent the integration of Little Rock Central High School. The song, with full lyrics was recorded two years later as Original Faubus Fables, for the album Charles Mingus presents Charles Mingus which was released on the independent Candid Label. Mingus Ah Um was chosen for the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2003.

Mingus Dynasty was the follow-up album to Mingus Ah Um. It is for this reason that the album tends to get overlooked. Both albums are steeped in Mingus' roots. Blues, gospel, the rhythms of prayer meetings, mixed with Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Mingus' own powerful vision. Many of the songs on the album were composed for film and television in the wake of the success of Mingus Ah Um. In 1999, Mingus Dynasty was in inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is an impassioned, multi-textured six part suite, written as a ballet. Mingus created a unique orchestral style that he called, “ethnic folk dance music”, while giving a nod to Ellington and various Latin musical styles in the composition. Though the music has a deep emotional range, the pieces never meander or lose any potency. Every note of every movement is powerful and felt with intensity Mingus intended. The liner notes for Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, were written by Mingus and a psychiatrist who treated him at Bellevue, and are dance between clinical observation and uncertain ramblings. The album is consider by jazz critics and fans alike to be in the top ten of greatest jazz albums of all time.

When Charles Mingus released Let My Children Hear My Music in 1972, he was past his prime and still struggling with the most complex composition of his life, “Epitaph”, which had collapsed under its own brilliance when it was hastily debuted in 1964. At the time of it's release, Mingus called Let My Children Hear My Music, “the best album I have ever made.” The denseness, strength, and sheer ambition of the album makes it feel like a return to the glory of the mid 50's through early 60's.

Charles Mingus worked tirelessly to push the boundaries of jazz with innovative compositions and a rotating roster of musicians including some of the most skilled and cutting edge in jazz, like Jaki Byard, Dannie Richmond, John Handy, Eric Dolphy, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Mingus' greatest musical legacy and his genius was finally fully realized, ten years after he died from ALS. In 1989, with the help of conductor Gunther Schuller and a thirty piece orchestra, Charles Mingus' opus Epitaph was performed in its entirety for the first time to rave reviews.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Colder Than A Well Digger's Ass pt II

The 44 came after 19 and that was a long time forgotten by the stuttering bums of old 13th Street. All the clues are revealed about a life without much appeal. And when will Nashville resurrect himself? The legions of followers are waiting.

Pantheistic innovations and they got the mongrels on a spit. She tells me the pink pills make the voices go away and in the storm clouds my mind drifts. Here's the place where the faces are oh so pale and there's too much blood on the pavement to see the trail of tears. And tonight the prophecy must be fulfilled--I must be what I never wanted to be--I must now think about the times I might have had, had I never opened my mind to Blake's light.

How does one respond to a straw crowned queen? She waves me away and the horizon runs red and black. It's all just another day to die and a train leaves every half an hour.

My ambitions are phantasmal as I watch virgins sleep, feeling their thighs for the moistness left from innocent dreams. Like them, I am consumed with the unknown.

(taken from Love Is A Ghost Thing. Published by Publish America)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Colder Than A Well Digger's Ass

"My blind faith in the muse is what has been getting me to sleep at might."

I remember the night you uttered those words that touched me so sweetly like a brick to the nose.

Foolishly, I told you all about my dreams last night and you laughed at my despair. Once, I saw you in my clouded heart and I realized there was nothing equivalent to this.

My enemies are getting uglier with time and I've butchered all the past catch phrases I could. The palm tree tops blow in the angry breeze of a hurricane that will again pass as a black widow crawls across my face looking for an entrance into my electric brain.

Everyday for decades I used to write letters to the man I was told handed out happiness, asking him for a bit. He just sent me stained and malformed geometric puzzles.

There are 420 degrees of pronunciation and we'll always be left to wander about the strange man of last week. Our commissioned heroes have returned for their tulips and they ask repeatedly about the distinct smell of rose that fills their heads every time they say your name.

(taken from Love Is A Ghost Thing. Published by Publish America.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

the half life

The road's hypnotic sway
when thought leaves,
form drifts.

Inner light
in value.

Midnight highway dashes
to escape
Me, you, everyone
we know,

like clumsy children,
into the void.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

suckerpunch IV

The bullets that riddled the body have left us separate but equal. The radio plays companion pieces to go with a symphony of heartache that no one else has ever heard. I try to steady myself. Ready myself to speak my mind, no matter what the ghosts I clutch in my hand have to say about the reality that haunts them, this and every other night. And my thoughts are not well. Self involved--absorbed--playful in their ingenuity--realistic in their dimension. There goes the change and it rains again. Long ago, I gave up my fortune for revelations.

Does your car make noises of salvation when passing through small towns? I guess I need to take to someone without having to make a phone call. The ballads swirling in my mind, remind me of another day when it was horses in the streets and everything felt lukewarm and curiosity didn't exist because God hadn't yet invented it. And dreams made people happy and no one knew the word sorry but perfectionists and the shadow players.

Up hills we walked searching for shame because it seemed silly to whip ourselves without it. This is how it was and would still be if people didn't stop wasting their lives on romantic notions and apostrophes. So doubt me not! The quotations marks have no hold on Tom Foolery or the clever pet names he has for friends, lovers, and heretics.

There is a cold front moving in and life seems to stop without a thought. Only a tie-in, a thread in nightmares plot for the sake of a TV movie. And the song of freedom is stuck in the throat of the masses.

(taken from Love Is A Ghost Thing. Published by Publish America.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

suckerpunch III

Did you know the meek would fight back? Regardless of your vision, regardless of continuity, and mistaken assassinations, debating the obscene is a dream. And the gentle nightmare brings it all together in less than a thousand miles. Once again, there are rumors of Nashville, our returning hero, he's got all he needs and will never fall, despite the rumors of his subtle inability. And in these crossroad times, a man asks for torture and we give him tickets to thirty years ago.

Who wants to go back to where they came from? The obvious reasons as to why it might best are of no concern as the night turns from black and white to inside out.

I'm the fool. I've given more than I should have. Shown more than I should have. Vanity is patiently waiting for heartache. I forget to forget the things that need to be forgotten. The conversation between me and myself never ceases to exist.

(taken from Love Is A Ghost Thing. Published by Publish America.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

suckerpunch II

My emotional shin is thin and I'll never show you anything. My paranoid hallucinations were right about everything. "Appeasement" is too strong of a word, and "pity" might be used too much as an excuse for actions. No one really cares how many people live inside of you, as long as all of them give in to sly demands.

I wish all the people here would take someone home with them tonight, and color naked with them. Or go battle someone, anyone but me--I'm still patiently waiting.

I see all the things I think of, and at times I just want to hug the night with my invisible arms and wait for it to spit me back out until I'm the last one left.

How am I supposed to concentrate on that which is not free form? The absolution of form gives us 1950. Some might say that joy comes in the form of nothing attainable and the LMNOP of oxygen intake caused Alexander the Great respiratory problems. Of course, I couldn't care less about those claiming to be prophetic.

(taken from Love Is A Ghost Thing. Published by Publish America.)

Monday, March 22, 2010


"Give me another drink and maybe they won't notice that I was allowed life again. And again, they'll have that look of surprise--that panic attack as fury spits forth from my eyes!"

No one knows everything despite the twisted nature of God's sense of humor. These horrors have left me feeling stupid and lonely, and I find myself looking through the personal ads for someone I can pass through--much like the days that have come and gone in no certain order, though I end up in a different place in the end. I feel distant and this has rendered me emotionally useless to all but a select few, all of whom wander long streets in Southeast Asia, looking for the man they call Nashville. So I still wait for them, or Nashville, or the delivery of a black and white TV that's typewriter compatible.

Strangers go by again. Pretending to be happy. Pretending to be alive. But they are anxious and uncertain. It's lead to sleepless nights, cigarette punching and face stealing in the name of happiness. I say to them, "Manipulate all you can while you can, because someday, someone's going to try to take you over." Your only defense is song and dance or wonderful breasts, and you, my dear sainted friend, have neither. So grow a beard and paint your toe nails, become a pop star for the deaf and dumb. Never mind the bastards, because they're God's favorites...

(taken from Love Is A Ghost Thing. Published by Publish America.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Day with George (Part 5)

In silence, George and I walk the few blocks to the river. It's a gorgeous day outside. People are walking their dogs, while kids go by on their bikes, and a sweet spring breeze is rustling the leaves, blowing pleasantly against our faces. George seems to be getting it back together, at least beginning to relax.

We get to the park and take a seat on a bench near the water. We haven't said a word to one another since we left the zoo. I'm enjoying the quiet. The only distraction is George's leg which is twitching uncontrollably. His face is a mask of confusion and his lips are moving but no words are coming out. I try to ignore it until he takes the picture of Marilyn out of his left breast pocket and begins to rub his thumb along her cheek, muttering a string of incomprehensible words.

The people continue passing, others sit down on the grass near us. George's muttering grows louder, he is now audible to all of those around us and passing. I still can't make sense of what's he's saying. Then the wrong person passes.

“Excuse me, is your friend okay?” The young man asks. I look at the man carefully. He is the athletic type with short brown hair and a perfect white-toothed smile. “You could be a Kennedy,” I say to him, fearing that if George makes the same grim connection he might try and attack this man. George, depending on the day, blames either John F. or Bobby Kennedy for Marilyn's suicide. I look over at George who has a scowl on his face and I immediately realize that he's made the connection and so when the man looks over at George, the expected happens and George freaks out on him.

George is quickly on his feet and pushes the man in the chest a couple of times. The man takes a few steps back until he feels he's in a safe range. “Damn you! Damn you!” George shouts. Get away from me you bastard! You weaselly little asshole. I'll kick your ass!”

George is now totally out of control. I try grabbing a hold of him to get him back on the bench but he twists away and takes a swing at me, his fist connecting with the side of my face. Spinning left and drifting, I fall back a bit as he kicks me in the ass, then punches me on the top of my head.

“Hands off, you son of a bitch!” He screams at me. I'm now on the ground. I look up, George is running full speed, hands in the air, then I hear his shouts as he dives into the river. I shrug at the people standing around me watching George swim. I get on my feet and watch him head down river, moving strong and fast. I'm impressed. I take a seat on the bench and keep watching until George is just a speak, then, gone. This wasn't the first time George has done this. The last time he made it a half mile down river, then claimed to ride a manatee to shore after he almost drowned. This time, who knows, maybe he'll swim all the way to the sea.

I wasn't sure what else to do, so I watch the water slide by. I lose myself in the rippling water, the scents of spring, the feeling of the breeze through my hair. After awhile the sun begins sinking. Once it's dark, I head home, make myself some dinner and wait for George to return home.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Day with George (Part 4)

Being that it's the first week the exhibit has been open, there are quite a few visitors. George is still upset about Rocky flipping him off, and all these people aren't helping the situation.

“Were you aware . . .” George begins loud enough for everyone to hear him. “that these beautiful and noble gorillas are being killed by the score in the wild. Soon there will be none left. The only existence a gorilla will ever know is in captivity. And did you know that poachers cut the hands off the gorillas so people can have exotic desk ornaments.”

“Oh shit . . .” I mutter under my breath. Quickly, I grab George and pull him away. The people's faces show scorn, horror, righteousness, and tears.

“C'mon we've got to get out of here. How about we take a walk to the park?” We make it outside without any problems, but George is a wreck. He's agitated and spastic.

“Okay George, we're gonna take a walk down tot he park, sit in the grass, just watch the river slide by.”

“Sure. Fine.”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Day with George (Part 3)

Another Friday has come around and after our breakfast at Nicko's, George and I walk down to the zoo. George is very agitated this morning which is not his usual Friday demeanor, but not out of the ordinary for any other day of the week. When he gets like this he walks fast and compulsively runs his hand through his hair which is the color of street slush during morning rush hour. Even though I'm thirty years George's junior, I have trouble keeping up with him when he gets like this.

“I think the Gorilla exhibit opened this week,” I mention to George trying to draw him out of his mood.

“Right.” He responds bluntly.

When we arrive at the zoo, George says he wants to check out the chimps first. He distractedly walks past all the other animals paying them no regard. He's lost in himself and when he does try to speak, it's a struggle for him to get words out because his mind is moving faster then his mouth can relate those thoughts.

George and I take our usual seats on a bench right next to the chimp habitat. Most of the adult chimps are lying around, while a couple of the younger ones wrestle in the grass. George sees Rocco and Rocco sees George, they appear to nod at one another but I quickly dismiss this notion. Rocco walks to the edge of the habitat, sits on the precipice of the cement gorge that divides us and them, and scratches his ears and makes faces. Rocco's body language and the compulsive way he's scratching makes him appear agitated. When I look over at George, I find him rocking slightly and rubbing the tip of his index finger against his knee.

The anxious states of George and Rocco grow and soon George is looking over his shoulder and Rocco is making hostile faces. Soon, George and Rocco are locked in a staring contest that doesn't seem it's going to end anytime soon. Without breaking his gaze, Rocco raises his right arm, extending it in out direction and without provocation, he raises his middle finger at us. I'm stunned. Not really sure if it actually happened. George becomes indignant.

“That little bastard. Who the hell . . .?” George is up off the bench and getting loud. The five or so people around us look confused then start to laugh when they realize what Rocco is doing. The laughter pisses George off so I grab him by the arm and lead him away.

“Why would Rocco do that? I've never been cross with him.” I don't answer George. I pull him along, towards the Gorilla exhibit. George has been waiting months for this exhibit and I'm hoping it will calm him down.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Day with George (Part 2)

Every Friday since Donna gave George and I the passes, we go to the zoo after our breakfast at Nicko's. It's a calm and relaxing activity that provides George with some inner-peace. He knows something about all the animals there.

“See that chimp right there.” He'll say to anyone listening, as we sit in the same spots on the same bench we do each week. George spent the first the first few visits studying the habitat from every vantage point until he determined this one was the perfect place to communicate with all the chimps. “That's Rocco, the alpha male,” he continues. “He's been here since the sixties. In fact, back then people used to throw lit cigarettes to him because he knows how to smoke. A chimp smoking, think of it.”

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Day with George


“Cheap cigar smoke smells like dirty elephants,” I say to George every time he lights one up.

“Your stones are no match for my bones,” George retorts.

George always looks contagious. He spent most of his twenties and early thirties in the Army working as a guinea pig. He says they tested all types of super drugs on him. He says it's made him indestructible. He doesn't say this with much conviction, and his ashen complexion and thinning hair don't help his argument, so no one believes him.

George has a laminated black and white photo of Marilyn Monroe that he carries in his shirt pocket everywhere he goes. He bought the picture from a kid at school when he was eleven after seeing “How to Marry A Millionaire” with his older sister. Sometimes when he thinks he's alone, I see him take out the picture and have a conversation with it.

“Yes, Marilyn, we went to Nicko's for breakfast again. I know it's not fancy like some of the places you eat in, but they have a really good breakfast and you know Elvis once at there. I agree, it was another beautiful day outside. Yeah, it will be summer soon. I know, I know . . . you think the summers here are too damn hot.”

George is my oldest friend, he and I have known one another for fifteen years and have lived together for the past three. George was the one who introduced me to, Eliza, my future ex-wife. After she divorced me and made me homeless, I was staying with a cousin of mine and working as the night manager of a liquor store in our neighborhood. One night, George came into the store and told me his dog Barnaby had died early that very morning. George had spent the last eighteen years living with Barnaby and the dog was his one constant companion in that time. George was taking Barnaby's death hard and when he stopped by that night, he told me he might be too lonely to go on. I wasn't sure if he intended on killing himself or not, but it wasn't a chance I wanted to take.

This past Christmas, our neighbor Donna, gave George and myself year-long passes to the zoo because it's George's favorite place to go. When George was a boy, he wanted to live and work at the zoo when he grew up. His father though, was career military and ran a strict household, and George was expected to join the Army after high school. A few weeks in, it was obvious that George was not cut out for military life. He was considered physically weak and too timid. He was sensitive, labeled a daydreamer, and worst of all he was antisocial. His drill sergeant was convinced that he wasn't right in the head. George's father was able to pull some strings and get him a position in a testing and research lab, where he stayed until he received an honorable discharge fifteen years later. George never talked about basic training and most of his super drug speeches were just mutterings as if he was talking in his sleep.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Violent Contradiction

Paul A. Toth is the author of the novels Fizz, Fishnet, Finale and Airplane Novel. His blog Violent Contradiction is a collection of writings that range from the philosophical to the whimsical. Whether taking on the subjects of his own mental health, social networking, battling Comcast Cable company or the utopia of Tothopolis, Paul does it with a Chaplinesque cleverness, whit, and humor that makes every entry enlightening and entertaining. Check out Paul's blog and find links to buy his books at

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

if not, then what are we?

Happiness never finds itself in a room with Eloquence. They are estranged lovers, bound together by what is now a speculative past. Happiness now hangs with Boisterous, who drinks too much and flirts with everyone. Joyous, who is fun to go out with, but after a few hours, her actions are constant reminders of how close you are to Despair. Eloquence now suffers from an unwholesome thirst and wakes ravaged and sweating every morning . . .

Friday, March 5, 2010

before the end was near

Given my youth
she became a religion.

An idol in the flesh
to worship and caress.

I became her penitent lover.

Willing to carve her name
in the palm of my hand.

She fed on my love,
but preferred the taste of my hate.

I fed on her lust,
but preferred the taste of her rejection.

We became drunk
on each others lies.

Now there's a stillness in those blue-greens
that makes her pupils look like
undiscovered islands.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

those sad hours

I fall in love, thoroughly, again.

Your voice trails
dances with the coyote calls .

Your silver cross
protecting your heart.

Your eyes give you away, thoroughly, again.

I peer over your gate
when the sunlight dims.

Sing gypsy hymns
as the moonlight enters the room

I wish to be in, thoroughly, again.