Unless noted otherwise, all text
and images by M. Russell
Painting by R. Russell, 1928 - 1995
My Walk to George's Funeral
Mozart. I should look up. Reds, browns, yellows, greys. Fall colour. Rain colour. Mozeart. No, Moatzart. Think the Requiem, deep sleep in D minor. Grasp the tempo and hold it fast. Strings, harmonium begin. Low, high, low, high. Bass plodding mud counter violin’s air. Up versus down bow drawing syncopate visual orchestra alive. Sly music, pulsing here, then there. Swaying lazily listing ships dawdle lonely through a narrow organ strait. Orchestral pendulum fans incensed air, smelling music. The organ melts the pendulum and the pulse fades away. Crescendo violins, arco razors make you grieve and swallow.
Good to think of music going to George’s funeral. I remember one old summer at his cottage he told me to sit down and play along with records, even if I didn’t know them. He said that was how you learn, by doing, and he was right. He showed me how easy it can be. Hot and beery nights and sounds of trains far away I was thirteen. Suds clinging to glasses drinking and eye. His ringed fingers sustaining notes on the keyboard, making the ivories look like a row of teeth with gold fillings that smiled at him no matter what. My guitar fingers would sting a bloody mess then get dry and sticky. Mother would start to sing, and a breeze through the bare open window cooled me and blew the smoke from my eyes. Pocket, give me a cigarette. Really, said my woman, I don’t want you to get sick or anything but you looked so smoking cool when I met you. Easy, I said: roll ‘em up, stick ‘em in your mouth and light them on fire. Divorced now anyway.
Wrote that word on a napkin today and it’s not so scary like that, by itself and under my control. Married was I to her and she to me. Her head was blond and clear and in the beginning she kissed me under a street lamp. She said she’d love me forever and I said don’t threaten me and we laughed. Tuba mirum spargens sonum means the sounds of trumpets flingeth through the graves of earth they ringeth so it seems. Deep soloist here. Bass voices make me think of the devil at an opera, just sitting in the audience trying to look sharp and winking at people. Doesn’t pay admission either, the rotter.
George said that life is your own peculiar journey and the music of your life is like a map of where you’ve been. Maybe encountering music along life’s journey is like encountering deep spirit-puddles on your road. Most people look at the surface, see their reflection then walk around, those are ones who listen and dance; but some walk right into them, get their souls wet and sometimes find themselves submerged. Music and spirit intertwined, mystic Mozart freemason. Callipers to squares to plumbs, wholes to quarters to rests.
There’s the parlour. Full choir now, thousands of dead souls, and I must enter and bid adieu. Orchestra stops and the choir falls mute. Ashes to ashes, lead the coffin back outside. Tie on straight, hair brushed I go inside to consider the scythe.
Grumble, the Malcontent Tea Cup
So, the old coot’s done it again: dragged me from my comfy cupboard, filled me up with scalding camomile and held me up to his dry, loathsome lips until he’s slaked his thirst. Now he’s off to bed, leaving me here in a damp sink while he passes the night in guiltless slumber. A fine thing!
It’s not easy being a teacup. How would you like it, being banged about till you’re all chipped and scratched, and used over and over again till you’re stained and ugly? Being picked up by your ear all the time? Then before you know it, some butter-fingered oaf drops you on the floor and you’re off to the garbage dump — phooey! This isn’t living, but what the hell can I do about it? I’m stuck here in the darkness, with a blasted leaky faucet beating away at me like some kind of water-torture. Sadistic!
What a miserable place to pass the night, surrounded by cold, stainless steel walls. I can’t see anything over them except for the clock on the wall, and I’m forced to keep company with lowlife like dirty flatware, saucers and toast crumbs. What’s more, the earwigs will soon be out and crawl all over me — ugh! Oh well, I have to look on the bright side, I guess; come morning I’ll be washed and dried, and put back in the cupboard. That’s the best part of my day, when I get to go home, but I’ll tell you right now it’s no joy being hung up on a hook in your own living room!
Yikes! What’s that noise? Whew, it’s only the refrigerator motor. I can never get used to that brute. It just stands there, square and strong, doing nothing all day but hum. It gets attention, though, being so “expensive,” but no one ever stops to think about me. No, I’m just one of those lousy, dime-a-dozen teacups everyone takes for granted, aren’t I? Well, Mr. Fridge, you may fancy yourself the high and mighty one in this kitchen, but answer this: who was it that broke down last week and spoiled all the food? It sure as hell wasn’t me! And don’t you laugh, Ms. Stove; I recall you burning dinner to a crisp more than a few times!
Oh, long, weary night. You know, time would pass a lot faster if that damn tap would stop dripping. Every second of the night gets counted off, one by one. Drip, drop, tick, toc, drip, drop, tick, toc – between the tap and the clock, a poor cup could go mad! Of course if ‘sleeping beauty’ in there weren’t so stingy, he’d get it fixed and save us all a lot of grief.
Speaking of which, the selfish old fool’s started to snore. Just great! I’ll never get any rest now, that’s for sure. Oh, if only I had been higher born, fired in a more genteel kiln like Wedgwood or Royal Albert. Now, those cups are treated with respect: they’re hardly ever used, and pass their lives in a clean, dry china cabinet where they’re admired and pampered by all. You can’t change the past, though, and one must look to the future. Maybe one day I’ll be ground down and made into something more becoming of my refined character, or be left undisturbed to be found by some archaeologist centuries from now. Yes, that would be ideal. I’d be a precious artefact in a museum storeroom, handled with reverence by scholarly types wearing white gloves. They’d clean me up and call in psychics who’d try to coax ancient secrets out of me — maybe I’d even get my picture in the paper. I wouldn’t tell them a darn thing though, not after the way I’ve been treated by the human race. Bah! Whom am I kidding? It’s the trash bin for me one day, no doubt about it.
Ah, the sun’s up! Daylight at last, and I can hear “Rip Van Wrinkle” coming down the hall. Finally, I’ll be set free from this hellhole. Wait a minute — he’s walking right past the kitchen, what’s gives? Egad, I can see he’s got his hat on, too! The old bastard’s going out! Hey! Where in blazes do you think you’re going? Don’t lock the . . . well, that’s just great! Who knows when I’ll get out of this sink now!