Category Archives: Yesterday’s Artists in Today’s World

Daily Micro #100: Yesterday’s Artists in Today’s World ~ Victor Jara

Acknowledging Victor Jara

I am not Victor Jara. I’m not Sept. 11, 1973, the day of the Chilean coup.

I am not the hands of Victor Jara. I’m not the rifle butts that shattered the hands of Victor Jara. I’m not the guitar they made the shattered hands of Victor Jara play before the people in Estadio Chile, the stadium they made into a detention center, that held the artists and the singers and writers they made watch the torture of Victor Jara on Sept 11, 1973. I am not the 44 bullets they poured into Victor Jara. I am not they.

I’m not the music that Victor Jara wrote and played and that inspired the people before the coup. I’m not the theatres in which he directed plays. I am not Victor Jara and I was never Victor Jara.

I am Sept 11, 1973. I am the conspirators that staged the coup. I am the police state that took Victor Jara. I am the rifle butts that crushed his hands. I am the guitar he played. I am the theatres in which he staged plays. I am the bullets that pierced his body 44 times. I am shantytown and I am Santiago, Chile and I take the body of Victor Jara. I am they. I am always those things and I was never those things.

I am Victor Jara. Go up beyond the clouds, beyond the Moon, beyond the Sun, beyond the stars, beyond the galactic core, beyond the universe, beyond the universes, beyond. I am the gods and goddesses and I am neither. I am not the Earth and the Moon and the Sun and I am the Earth, the Moon and the Sun.

I am the clouds and the stars and the galactic core and the universe and the universes and I am not the clouds and the stars and the galactic core and the universe and the universes.

I am your dreams dreaming. I am hope and patience and gratitude and I am fear and rage and confusion. I am compound interest compounding and I am compound interest compounded and I am debt forgiven and gifts of exchange and I am human friendship and I am stray animals and I am always Victor Jara and I am never Victor Jara.

 

~ Stephen J. Bergstrom

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Daily Micro: Yesterday’s Artists in Today’s World ~ Lenny Bruce (Leonard Alfred Schneider)

Acknowledging Lenny Bruce (Leonard Alfred Schneider)

It was the words, man. Let me tell you, it was the words, they had life, they had s-e-n-t-i-e-n-c-e, they had their own life. They KNEW where to go. I’d just open my mouth and life would come out. Get it. The 1st Amendment isn’t about words, man. IT’S ABOUT LIFE! And that LIFE comes from elsewhere. I’m so gone, man. LIFE is so gone, not like you think. Where’s ENERGY come from, man? Not from coal-power, nuke-power. Where’s ELECTRICITY come from, man? ENERGY comes from SOURCE. WORDS come from SOURCE. From ABOVE. Way ABOVE! Way ABOVE any fairy tale Heaven. Way ABOVE any rabbi or priest or imam. Way ABOVE any god or goddess or God. OPEN your eyes. You’re ENERGY! You’re SOURCE. Fuck any one tells you different! LIFE flows through YOU! Life KNOWS where to go! You KNOW where to go! You KNOW what to say! You’re LIFE LIVING!

~ Stephen J. Bergstrom


Daily Micro: Yesterday’s Artists in Today’s World ~ Mae West (Mary Jane West)

Acknowledging Mae West (Mary Jane West)

I wasn’t a plain Jane and I wouldn’t be one, now. Everyone wanted a piece of me, most especially the censors. Then again, seeing the mess men made of things, I might go West till no one could find me.

 

~ Stephen J. Bergstrom


Daily Micro: Yesterday’s Artists in Today’s World ~ George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans)

Acknowledging George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans)

Book Eight

The Real Beginning

 

A Lady Lost

Worse

A Lady Scorned

 

How it entered her mind is of little consequence. That it did, is.

As she neared completion of his work, The Key to All Mythologies, she left the quaint country house. If she married and had a son, he would inherit. But there was the dreadful Catholic question and she believed so much less.

Answers could not be dictated by dogma for if they could, everyone would be the same. Men and women would answer the same at every occasion.

Walking the country lane, she noticed the trees, some tall, stately, some short, round, each different leafed. In her mind, she sought to reconcile what she saw with what she was taught.

By chance, later in the day, the sun setting, she entered the library in Middletown. Seeking retreat, she spurned the public reading area and after wandering through the upper stacks, asked, without knowing why, if she could be admitted to the basement where the unwanted books were kept.

And that is where life came to her. In those deep recesses, she discovered the hidden histories, the pre-ancient texts, the cobbled scrolls, the earliest writings. Reading through the night, she discovered Hypatia murdered by the Christians, the teachings of the Gnostics lost in the destruction at Alexandria, the Great Library, and the absolute loss of the predecessor myth, the history, the story of the goddess who left the center of the galaxy to become the earth.

The key, she realized, to all mythologies, were the fact that they were doctored and stolen to hide the goddess whose story was the all story and when that great thought dawned upon her, she knew she would not marry the author of The Key to All Mythologies.

No, she would not return to his quaint country house nor would she become Catholic. She would not live to die. She would die to live.

 

~ Stephen J. Bergstrom


Daily Micro: Yesterday’s Artists in Today’s World ~ Samuel Beckett

Acknowledging Samuel (Beckett)

Waiting on the Crone in Two Acts

A Maiden

Traveling Crone

A young mother

A boy

A girl

A glowworm

Rising Moon

Setting Sun

Act I

Dusk

Emerging Stars

Emerging Planets

A pasture

A barn

A wooden ladder

A pond

Over the hill

A hay bale

The Maiden, youthful and energetic, carries a wooden ladder into the barn.

Enter Traveling Crone

Maiden: (with spark). I want to go into the city. There is so much to see. I am done with the farm, at last.

Traveling Crone: (indifferent but wise) I wouldn’t think that. But that’s your choice. There’s much to choose from.

Maiden: But I only want to see the world, to travel and see new places. What else can be so magnificent? (removes her hands from the ladder, turns towards the Traveling Crone)

Traveling Crone: There is that and that and that.

Maiden: (walking with a bounce, shaving the distance between her and the Traveling Crone, jumps up on the hay bale) Like that? What is that and that and that?

Traveling Crone: Acts I, II and III. Midpoint, too. Beginning, middle and end, Morning, afternoon and night. Birth, life and death. Those are the basics but you can do much with them.

Maiden: What can I do with them?

Traveling Crone: (continuing) With midpoint, you awaken, you begin to become who you are. You can elongate Act I. You can create mini-dramas within your drama. But at midpoint, you really need to get on or get off.

Maiden: I haven’t a family and I want to see the world. Am I at midpoint?

Traveling Crone: No, that comes later. Tell me the story of the mother.

Enter boy and girl

Maiden: (looking at the children) Who are they?

Traveling Crone: They must be yours.

Maiden: How can they be mine?

Traveling Crone: Because they’re in Act I of your story. Look! (scans the pasture, points to the barn) There’s no other storyteller. They can only have come from your story. You’re the only one.

Boy: (approaches the Maiden) Mother?

Traveling Crone: See?

Girl: (joyous) Mother!

Traveling Crone: Are you beginning to awaken? Beginning to know who you are? You’re about to enter Act II.

Maiden: No, I’m youthful. I will always be young.

Traveling Crone: Your children are young.

Maiden: They are mine? How did you know?

The glowworm slips through hay bale. The children rush to see.

Girl: What is it, mommy?

Curious, the girl cradles the glowworm in her hands. The boy stands distant.

Maiden: (to the boy) Come and see!

Traveling Crone: They come to you. You call them. You are their mother. Yours is a glowing story.

Maiden: The glowworm is my story, too?

Traveling Crone: (holds up a clump of dirt) The glowworm belongs to the earth. (places the clump of dirt on the ground) The earth is your story.

Maiden: (the girl lays the glowworm in the clump of dirt) You said the children are my story.

Traveling Crone: The children live on the earth. The glowworm lives in the earth and burrows through the dirt to make passages for plants and weaves fine silk.

Maiden: The plants are my story? Fine silk is my story?

Traveling Crone: The pasture and all the grasses and all the animals and all the people are your story. (looks to the sky, stars, the rising moon, the setting sun). And all the silk and fine things. And all above. All below, the cetaceans.

The Maiden begins to laugh, begins to cry. Tears of happiness roll down her cheeks. When she wrings her face, tears scatter. Landing on the ground, they make a pond. The Maiden jumps back, scared. Her children gather around her.

Maiden: What is happening to me?

Traveling Crone: Your story is unfolding. You are awakening. You are not yet awake. You have many roads to travel to fully awaken. You will awaken more at midpoint.

Maiden: But now. Who am I?

Traveling Crone: Can’t you see?

Maiden: My powers are strange. They overwhelm me.

Traveling Crone: Stories are like that. Stories are journeys. In this part of your story, you will journey with your children on the earth because that’s who you are.

Maiden: (tentatively) I’m the Earth?

Traveling Crone: You are the Earth Mother. Your tears make the water.

Maiden: But I want to see the world!

(sounds of gunshots over the hill, frenzied traders bidding for commodities)

Maiden: (shaking) What’s that?

Traveling Crone: That’s the world. That’s another part of your story.

Maiden: That can’t be! That’s not my story.

Traveling Storyteller: Your story is vast. The noisemakers are your children, too. I’m getting tired. I have to lie down. I’m going to leave you now.

(sounds of gunshots, frenzied traders come closer, the hill moves menacingly towards the Maiden and her children)

Maiden: The world’s coming. Who will help us?

Girl: I will, mother.

Boy: Me, too.

Maiden: (holds her children) Am I to protect them?

Traveling Crone: Before you start Act II, you must end Act I. You are actually quite young but you must leave your youth to become a mother. You will use all of your powers in Act III.

Maiden: Will I be a mother in Act III or will I return to my youth? I will have to be strong and vibrant.

Traveling Crone: More than that.

Maiden: What can be more than strength and youth?

Traveling Crone: To become wise, you must exhaust your strength and your youth. Before that, you will go through much anguish. (pauses) The world will come against you because you are not awake in the world. You are only awake in the first part of your story.  You have not awakened in the world. You are not yet wise. (with emphasis of a wise one) At the end of Act III, you will raise up all of your children the plants, the animals, water, the atmosphere. You will be young and strong and wise. The Sun and the moon will be our your allies. In the end, you and all your creation will glow. Then, you will be wisdom.

Maiden: (anxious) Until then?

Traveling Crone: Before that, the world will come against all of your creation.

(the pasture catches fire, flames leap out of the barn)

Maiden: How do you know?

Traveling Crone: Your story is my story. I’m Act III. Now I must go see your other children, the ones over the hill.

Maiden: Help me!

Traveling Crone: (with wisdom, exiting) I have and I will.

 

Act II

Mid-morning. A young mother plays with her children in the pasture. The sun is bright, the moon halfway in the sky, the horizon aglow with the sounds of frenzied battle and greedy traders.

~ Stephen J. Bergstrom


Daily Micro: Yesterday’s Artists in Today’s World ~ Clara Gordon Bow

Acknowledging Clara Gordon (Bow)

 They give me the script. It’s not a great script. It’s a B movie at best and I don’t like the title, TI, for Travel Insurance. The idea is I work for a private security firm and cover high-profile celebs who tour the US, rock stars and 15 minute fame types making it while they can. I’m the Travel Insurance.

I’m it.

They call me TI on the set and one morning, we’re shooting outside and the script’s on a table. I go over to take a look at it and the sun hits it at a strange angle. I pick up a glass of water and when I look back at the script, I look through the glass of water. And when I look at it, I see the title page, letters in boldface, capitalized, reversed in the refraction from the water and the angle of the sun.

And I see it, the title and in boldfaced, capitalized letters, reversed, inverted, the TI becomes IT.

I get a bit weak, want to sit down, feel a rush. IT, I say to myself. A simple word but with power inside me. I’m somehow connected to IT.

It, I say again and when I feel myself wanting to say, I am IT, and when I say it, I am IT, it’s like an explosion inside of me and I begin to remember. I’m not TI. I’m IT.

~ Stephen J. Bergstrom


Daily Micro: Yesterday’s Artists in Today’s World ~ Jean Rhys

Acknowledging Jean (Rhys)

Jamaica was a far away land when England ruled the seas, thought Grace Poole. Now, everything was so close and admiralty law, the law of the sea, the reach of sea upon which land rested, permeated every crevice. Who were these rulers with such power? Who mandated such conformity?

When Antoinette, the deranged Creole girl looked up at her, Grace shuddered. How had she come to do the bidding of these secret rulers, to lord over Antoinette? Who was the madwoman, the madman?

Always searching for hidden magic and signs in nature, Antoinette was beyond reach. Or was she? Her father, mad too. An ungodly inheritance and connection between them. Or not. What if, instead, a natural reaction, unguarded?

Grace steadied her hand, ready to take the next drink when she realized, gazing into the smoky glass, something suffocated all of them, made them less than they were, dazed them into conformity and consensus. Something crept out of the wide sea, got onto the land, dug into souls, captured hearts.

The Sargasso, the sea, the wideness of the insanity. Surely, anyone with good intent would wave in the water like a slim reed. Until, they knew they were sane and the others insane. And then they would look at others differently, with compassion and insight.

“Watch her and never let her out of your sight,” Masters had said in his American  voice, the new rulers whose stretch exceeded all bounds, who inherited the reach of the English, who maintained military bases on every continent, who were NATO, the IMF, the World Bank and encircled the Far East and played rough in the Mid East, the Caspian and placed black-op weapons in space, whose central bank flooded the world with IOU’s. The global, interstellar policy.

“Keep your mouth shut, never tell anyone how I keep her and I’ll pay you twice as much as any of my servants. Make her quiet and you will become well-off.”

And that was their secret, the reach of their admiralty law. His words reverberated in her mind, keep your mouth shut, never tell anyone how I keep her and I’ll pay you twice as much as any of my servants. Make her quiet. The domestic policy.

We were all, all of us, nothing more than servants to them, she understood. And we were all to be quiet and they would pay all of us to make one another quiet. And that was their secret. And that was our work. To serve and to be quiet and to make others become quiet and to work without flinching for wages. That was American. Those were the Masters.

She put the glass onto the small wooden eating stand, got onto her hands and knees and gently lifted Antoinette’s head off the floor and, in a burst of insight, distinguished between the sane and the insane, brushed the caked drool from Antoinette’s lips and peered through the window at a brightly colored Velvet Thrush, singing for a sign.

~ Stephen J. Bergstrom


Daily Micro: Yesterday’s Artists in Today’s World ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Acknowledging Jorge Luis (Borges)

One day the least of the poets, and he was least because the powers of the world valued other voices, realized that this would be his day. He knew his day had come when he saw parts of him dematerialize in the mirror. First, as he lay there in his bed scrunched up in the corner, staring at the mirror, the lower half of his jaw disappeared, and made him look like someone had taken scissors to a photo and had cut off the bottom of his face which now looked as flat as a table.

He knew he must hurry if he was to safeguard the memories he would take with him because he was sure those remembrances would become people and shape the character of his next life.

Before he completed those thoughts, he turned back to the mirror and saw one of his legs was gone.

He immediately thought of sunny days and warm sand and wooden piers that snaked out into water before the world valued his words so little that he became small and retreated into dark cellars, away from the daily markets, shunned for his words, away from the people.

In his next life, he didn’t want to be small again. He had learned what he needed to experience. In his next life, he wanted to be friends with sunny people and to live in warm lands with sand and sails and to experience value for his voice.

When he reached towards the books scattered under his bed, he did so with purpose, hoping to find Cervantes because in his next life he wanted to imagine great things.

But he knew time was running away from him. Now, his other leg, when he dared to cast his eyes on the mirror, was gone. Soon, he would be no more. Like this country, he thought, Pakistan, caught between the great powers, about to be dismembered by dark deception and cunning, the Great Silk Road the prize and access to the markets of the East.

Quickly he gathered himself, prepared now for the journey, as he watched the remainder of his body become molecules and atoms floating away into the mirror at the end of his bed and to better days.

 

~ Stephen J. Bergstrom


Daily Micro: Yesterday’s Artists in Today’s World ~ Willa Cather

Acknowledging Willa (Cather)

As Latour listens to the politician, he tries to push away the paradox he feels growing in his heart.

If they control everything, the weather, the thoughts going into our heads, the value of assets, who lives and dies, and they keep extracting the coal and poisoning the water table, can anything unexplainable exist? Can nothing stop them? Is there no power greater?

But then he sees Manuelito nodding off, indifferent to the words of the politician.

A simple exclusion? Can they not keep Manuelito awake? Who empowers Peabody Coal?

Coming across the high desert, en route to build a new church deep in the land of the Navajo, fresh off his stay at the Vatican, Father Latour feels power and mystery in the downtrodden. He watches them haul water for miles to their homes, the ground water dangerous, filled with coal filings and when he visits the HOPI, he sees they, too, fight for water.

The Navajo and the HOPI in a single fight, he thinks, and Phoenix’s downstream metroplex awash with water and green lawns, golf courses and aquatic parks.

He looks back at the politician, the ex-presidential candidate, the chicken hawk pilot who crashes his plane on the carrier, killing sailors, the one known by his acts in Viet Nam as a traitor, but reveled as a hero, the one demanding water for Peabody, from the Navajo and the Hopi, the one wrapped in garland and the flag on the speaker’s stand, dry wind blowing across his face, and then he looks at Manuelito sleeping, snoring, while the rest of them stand and applaud.

And that is the paradox he senses. With all the power and all the trimmings, all the words, the politician cannot prevent Manuelito from turning him off.

And in that thought, Latour finds peace but not in the god wrapped around his neck, not in the god the politician espouses but still he finds peace. No, he understands that god, the one behind the politician and those behind the politician, has not the power to fend off Manuelito’s indifference.

No, there is another power and that power comes in the dry wind, the hearts of the people and is somehow rooted in the ground, in the air, in the elements and is alive.

Latour loosens his collar, closes his eyes and begins to sink into that power, begins to be carried away by that power and that is when he sees Manuelito waiting for him.

 

~ Stephen J. Bergstrom


Daily Micro: Yesterday’s Artists in Today’s World ~ John Updike

Acknowledging John (Updike)

This used to be a good town, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom thinks, as he walks back from the foreclosure sign, his ears alert to the pounding rhythm of the bouncing ball.

Coming around the corner, he spies the pick-up game, six dark-skinned skywalkers tossing the basketball up in the air, one by one, working on their ESPN moves, catching, snagging and dunking, reverse jamming, plunking the ball off the metal backboard with one-hand and then with the other, like Dr. J, like MJ, powering the ball through the wire-mesh net, jive-talking, trash talkers.

Rabbit loosens his tie, slips out of his sports coat, rolls up his sleeve when the ball caroms off one of six, rolls towards him. Bending down, he feels that light spryness in his hips, that feeling of liftoff, of separation from the earth, his white skin, blue eyes and soft, tussled hair ready to leap, to bounce, the reason Rabbit entered the womb and came out six feet three inches.

With a single motion, he scoops up the ball, uncoiling upwards, like a musical instrument raising a note to heaven, and before one of the six can blink, before any of them can say something, can shout, he releases the ball with his right wrist bent backward, the soft cradle, his fingertips hushing, kissing the round leather, all in singular adoration, flicking three points into the warm, sunny sky.

So concentrated his effort, so effortlessly beautiful, so the way a good town was, he blocks out the sound of the rough-engined car, muffler spewing dirty smoke, spitting sin, idling.

How he wants to know the boys, to get close to them, to be part of their lives, to share his with them, believing in his heart that unspoken bridges connect them, link their souls to one another in a cacophony of deep summer nights, asphalt courts and endless pick-up games when he hears the first shot and the bullet ricochets off the metal backboard and he hears the heavy, running food stomps and the voice screaming, “This is my territory, gangbangers!”

 

~ Stephen J. Bergstrom