There's a poem in Ragged Anthem, the fantastic new book by Chris Dombrowski which comes out this week, that I think about a lot. It’s been a long winter, and I printed the poem out and put it on the refrigerator, between the school lunch schedule and a drawing of Wonder Woman. In a collection so stuffed with near-perfect poems that its hundred-odd pages should outweigh an anvil, it's the one that comes to mind in March, when the path to the barn is lacquered in iced chicken shit, half the woodpile is frozen together from the one night I forgot to cover it, and my hands are beat-up and red. The wood-stove stays hungry but the light changes, and the Jays and Cardinals are staking out their territory in the early dark. I went out to fish the other day and wound up following some bobcat tracks to a deer kill, a sort of pinkish Times Square in the snow where every creature from eagle to coyote and fox had come to feed, and a good place to stand, a perfect physical counterweight to the technicolor psychoses of the internet. That's the kind of place where Ragged Anthem lives.
Three moons in particular seem to have it in for me:
The Moon of It Gets Late Early Here;
The Moon of Winter Stores Wearing Thin;
and The Moon of I Have to Quit Fishing and Return
Underappreciated and Underpaid to Work.
Of course there is also The Moon of Too Many
Plastic Presents and Cups of Unspiked Nog,
not to mention The Moon of Everybody But Me
Flies to a Beach Town and Drinks Free Margaritas;
And while I take rare comfort in The Moon of We Start
Anyway to Get Some Color Back in Our Cheeks,
it often devolves into The Moon of Crunching
Numbers for the Man.
Praise be, though, to the Moon of the Long
Larch Colored Light! Unless of course you are
a herbivorian ungulate in which case it becomes
The Moon of Dodging Hurtling Pieces of Lead.
Moon of Not Too Much But a Little More Light Each Day,
I thank you and beg you not to morph into The Moon
That Recalls the Time She Left For Good; this goes
As well for The Moon of Picking Wild Asparagus,
Which doubles as The Moon of When I Caught Her
in the Backyard Kissing Him, aka The Moon
of When All Resentment Ripens. But—Moon of
We Finally Put Our Fleece on Again and Watch You
Refracting Light onto the Peaks’ First Dusting,
you redeem all other god-cast stones, as do you,
Moon of When the Muddy Water Clears and Trout
Can See My Flies Again—which leaves just you,
Moon of Wool Hats at Night but Naked Lake Swims
at Noon, Moon of Ripe Huckleberries by the Fistful,
Moon of Dragonflies Cupped in Daughter’s Palms,
Moon of It’s Alright We’ll Clean the Bottles Up Tomorrow,
Moon of Everything (Even Talking to a Mute Stone) Is Alright.
- Chris Dombrowski
WALTHAM - (3/21) It’s pronounced Wall-Tham, with the emphasis, strangely, on the flat ‘a’ of the second syllable, so it rhymes with Sam. This is the kind of inside information I’m willing to provide, because we are old friends. I have only two shows in March, and this first is a solo/acoustic appearance at the Second Shift Concert Series at the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation, in Waltham, MA. Alert your Brahmins.
OKC - (3/31) Ten days later I’ll play another solo show, 1,682 miles west and south of Waltham, at the Blue Door in Oklahoma City, a great little room I used to play but haven’t for years, in a town and a state I particularly enjoy. I’m hoping that someone there remembers who I am, and that they bring all their cousins.
WISCONSIN - In the first half of April we'll tour the state of Wisconsin, where I was born and raised on cribbage, ice-fishing, Packer Sunday, cheese curds, and Miller products. We'll start in the middle at the McMillan Library in Wisconsin Rapids (where I ran in the state cross-country championship race all four years of high school, with a team win in 1993) before moving on to play The Howard in Oshkosh (where I once threw three bullseyes, the last while leaning with one hand against the wall on a bet, to win a game of darts at Oblio's), then down to the beautiful Mineral Point Opera House in Mineral Point, an old mining town where you can get a Cornish pasty for breakfast (and I have); way up to the the Park Theater in Hayward, where my wife and I canoe-camped the Namekagon river more than once; down to PUBLIC Craft Brewing in Kenosha, a town where I used to purchase live bait on the way home from Chicago gigs; home to the deeply venerable Cafe Carpe in Fort Atkinson, where I spent a year home-schooling the son of the owners in American History, reprising Paul Boyer's History of American Thought, which I had taken at the University in Madison; out west again to the driftless to play the Masonic Center in Viroqua, where my dear friend the novelist and author David James Duncan and I once spent three beautiful spring days doing nothing but fishing the Bad Axe and Kickapoo Rivers, and Coon Creek; finishing up north at The Oxbow in Eau Claire, a town that was not remotely hip when I lived in Sconnie and which mainly featured a cheap breakfast on the way to the Twin Cities, but where one can now order escargot with dinner. Erik Koskinen, a fantastic songwriter and guitar player from the UP via Minnesota, opens the tour and joins me on electric guitars, and hats.
MIDWEST - In May we'll return to the Midwest to play some parts of it that are not in Wisconsin, for instance SPACE in Evanston, Illinois (5/1), and the state of Ohio, where we'll play the Marathon Center for the Arts in Findlay (5/2), Riverdog in Oberlin (5/3), Natalie's in Columbus (5/4), before heading north to play The Ark in Ann Arbor, MI (5/5), and further shows TBA that next week in IA, and MN. Erik Koskinen opens this tour as well, and hopefully drives the van.
THE WIFE - Kris Delmhorst is on tour in the Netherlands and Germany right now, living exclusively on schnitzel, stroopwafels, and Belgian beer, and if you live in or near those countries you should go and see her, while you can. Tour dates are available at her TOUR page.
CLIMATE - Friday 3/15/19 the Youth Climate Strike begun by Greta Thunberg comes to the USA, and my 10 year-old daughter plans to take part. If you’re unfamiliar with the strike, the idea is that apparently the children of earth would prefer to live in a world with intact ecosystems and a functioning civilization. I know, spoiled rotten right? Thousands of children across Europe have gone on strike from school, and the coverage in the stateside press is, typically, dismal or absent. We're failing our kids, and they're right to demand action.
READING - Occasionally I remember to do here what I would do in normal correspondence, and mention what I’ve been reading. The Threat Matrix, Garrett Graff’s history of the FBI is a decent primer on the agency, and the only in-depth profile of Robert Mueller I've seen (it appears that Mueller is an actual and heroic patriot, yet I've never seen him hug a flag, so I can't be certain). Thomas Mails’s biography of Frank Fools Crow, the Oglala/Lakota holy man, is a solid biography of one of the most beautiful souls of the late century (and good companion to Mails's earlier book Fools Crow: Wisdom and Power). Otherwise, mornings I've been reading Michael Ondaatje’s early poems, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, and at night finishing Mary Dearborn’s recent, epically depressing, and somewhat uneven life of Earnest Hemingway; for doing dishes and long drives, I rely on the WWII-set European spy novels of Alan Furst.
LISTENING - I’ve been digging through some lovely new records by friends Peter Mulvey, David Huckfelt, and the trio Lula Wiles, and then old records by Willie Nelson, Ronnie Wood, George Harrison (Early Takes Vol. 1). Harrison just breaks my heart every time, and the early demos have the demo thing: a lightness, freedom, and sweetness that rarely gets captured again. In the apartment we had before we were married, when the forced-air would kick on, it was accompanied a faint and confusing sound like birdsong. We called it the heater birds, and a dozen ago I wrote them into a song that never got recorded. You can hear that demo, made on my phone, at the video link below. We'll see you in the spring. Hold on.