Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow. So, I loaded up the art car for a trip back down to this family lake house some 80 miles west of my hometown of Louisville and hit the road about sundown. Time to get the fuck out of dodge. Loaded up my aging chocolate lab Duke like he was R2D2. Duke is 16 years old and riddled with cancer and arthritis. So, I gently placed him in the back seat. Put on one of my favorite Grateful Dead recordings, Live Dead and now it’s the test of the boomerang, tossed into the night of redeeming. So this is the return.
It rained like a motherfucker all the way out Dixie Highway. 31w. Fort Knox. Out highway 60 twords Owensboro, Kentucky. Follow 60 until you get to that place that used to be called, “Hog Wallow” Kentucky and then follow 333 into the winding roads of Central Kentucky, industrial farming … dot dot dot … and I know these roads like the back of my hand. Country roads, take me home, I digress, often.
When I left this place in the spring, Louisville was all crazy, the pandemic was setting in, and the national guard had been called into the streets of town. I was spending time out here, so as to get away from all the bullshit drama of how Kentucky was just going to just have to deal with this almost unreasonable attempt at a Government issued MRE packet style monetary assistance project. When I left, I was just getting to know the Mennonite family out on the “state” road. Now I am back, Breonna Taylor is the acting mayor of Louisville and the pandemic is?
The pandemic is whatever you think the pandemic is. Because nobody trusts anything. The news makes no sense and because this country has been pushed to the brink of civil war, culture war, go ahead and try and make heads or tails out of this that or the other. Out here in Central Kentucky, it is a whole different ballgame. Wear a mask of social distortion out here in farm country and get your ass run off. This place is no place for a revolution. This is industrial farming and Anarcho-syndicalism territory. One of the last conversations I had with the Mennonite father was about what his politics might be. Of course “they” don’t participate in American politics, so my definition of his brand of “Anarchist Action” fell of Pennsylvanian German, whatever the fuck language “they” speak deaf ears.
So, this is the return report. This is a brief announcement. Follow this site for more. Share this link and all that Jazz. My plan is to write like crazy and stay down here for a while. More to come, news at eleven. Or The Eleven. That is that boomerang reference. Robert Hunter wrote that poem for the Dead. Got it? Pay Attention and you do the googling. I’ll file the reports, you do the math. This report is being filed with an on-line zine that my Shanty Boat friend Wes Modes is running. Unavoidable Disaster. Look it up. He is at his makeshift California deportee camp now. Run off by fire! He is a real Burning Man, know what I mean, Vern?
John Paul Wright
(Tapestry was a joint project of two people struggling with an isolated home life and the rigors of railroading. The songs were born of that difficult life experience.)
That is what I wrote then … now is a different story.
This project was born of meeting with Wendell Berry twice at his kitchen table and basically walking in Eugene V. Debs shoes for 16 years. It was for me, Donna channeling Joe Hill and providing music for a song he wrote that never had a melody.
And because of Donna Lynn’s side of the story, the song she sang of Joe Hill’s Dance This Waltz was exactly the Tango of a life experience and what had caused a large part of our struggle. She was the stay at home, homeschooling mother with an overworked – burning out union activist husband gone MIA from the family.
Donna is an amazing singer and poet in her own rite, and several of her pieces are deep and touching. We may not be together now, but this project was us at our creative best.
After Donna and I parted ways … I couldn’t play my guitar for almost two years because it reminded and sounded of this recording. I am just now, three years later just getting back to it.
If you listen to my track Freedom, what you are listening to is a man, at the end of his rope, barely hanging on to some very stressed frayed edges. I was exhausted, worn out and almost lost.
Now i am found.
The song Donna Lynn sang, that is inspired from a poem that Wendell Berry wrote, is my favorite on this recording. We went out to his farm to seek permission to record it and he was blown away. Donna sang like a bird and he told her that she could use it, and would be fine with her working on other poems if she wanted.
I got a chance again to talk shop with Wendell. It was truly a wonderful day.
Please fell free to share this recording, the song Songs Are Blue … shoot listen to that .. we sure could use a little bit of what Jason Eklund was writing when he wrote that masterpiece.
Y’all stay safe.
Time Capsule –
(A guide to Faith in the modern world.)
First and foremost, I guess this is my Autobiography. I am sort of killing two birds with one stone. I want to leave my Son a good idea of who his Pop is/was. I have wanted to write a book about faith, God, religion, politics and all the things you are not supposed to talk about at the Thanksgiving dinner table, for some time now. I want to tell some tall tales, maybe, help you make heads of tails out of this that and the other. I want to lay down some Myth, spit it on the mic! One, Two, One Two, mic check, testing testing, Houston, we have a problem. I digress often.
To write about what I believe, I think it would be important to state what I do not believe first. Then, write about certain events throughout this life ( of a half century ) that have fortified what I have come to believe as of now. Today. This year. I also think that it would be important to give a bit of a historical context to the make up of the unreasonable reality from where this rendering of a life experience is coming from.
If there was one thing I would want to shine through this writing – that one thing would be a light of hope. I am dedicating this book to my Son, Jonah William Malik-Wright as well as dedicating this book to the youth. The new generation of seekers, poets, musicians and kids. Generation ?, whatever the hell THEY are going to call you to try and get you to buy some shit. THEY call me Generation X. With a big G.
I do not believe in God, Our Father, who art in heaven. I do not believe God is a person, place or thing. I do not believe that God lives in stone buildings, built hundreds of years ago or that God can be found in a book. However, I do think, Bob Dylan was on to something when he sang, “you don’t ask questions when God is on your side.” You will notice the word God will remain capitalized throughout this book.
That is because, although I do not believe in the traditional suggestions of God, I do believe in positive and negative. I do believe that at one time, there was a Buddha, a person named Muhammad, (pbuh). I think the Veda’s are interesting as well as Jedi, Hobbits, and the Ring of Power and the Force and all that jazz is … I have seen the H.H. The Dalai Lama twice ( bless his heart! ) and not to mention, no matter how you feel about Jesus, in most hotel rooms in the USA, there is a Bible. So, Jesus exists there for sure. I would not call myself an atheist or an agnostic. I am a serious fan of Sun Ra. Space is the Place and dig this as we kiss the sky together, in my opinion, when Jimmie Hendrix played the guitar, I think he was tapping into that place where God is located, I feel the same way about John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and friends, dig this …
I was a deckhand at the largest riverboat casino in the world. The riverboat casino is an idea that is almost defunct. Defunct. When the Ohio River flooded, the company I worked for put us up in the casino hotel while we worked the boat. The company I worked for was Caesars. Get this, there is a Bible in the top drawer of the hotel, named Ceasers. WTF, LOL, SMHROTFL double plus good … go figure. Render unto Caesar the least as possible is my faith. Amen, and Womyn too. Good luck, you are going to need it.
The year is 2020. I started this book on March 22nd . There is a global pandemic that has spread across the globe and in a manner of weeks has shut down the economies of almost every country it has effected. Covid 19! A flu that attacks the victims respiratory system. The political fabric of the United States is split almost 50/50. There are only two political parties one can choose from and Corporate America has found favor in a President who infamously made his wealth by bankrupting the many businesses that he has owned. The POTUS rose to power from the fame and name recognition of being a media mogul, hotel / casino slash game show host. Go figure. LOL. SMH. Double minus good.
In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, where this book is being written, a Corporate Lawyer, son of a deeply entrenched Democratic Party political family is the Governor. The Kentucky Derby, a horse race built on the exploitation of horses and human vice has been postponed for the first time in it’s many year history. I have been furloughed from my job as Steamboat Fireman on the Str. Belle Of Louisville and am enjoying the hush money the government is giving out so as to keep people from hitting the streets in protest. Amazingly enough, there are pockets of people protesting. Some of the protesters are being paid to protest by right wing front groups, so I guess they are not employed? Who knows? The people who normally are accused of being paid protesters are accusing these folks of being paid protesters, so it is pretty confusing. If what they say about the Flu is true, Darwinian theory will tell the tale of the protesters assembling in groups to protest being paid to stay home. I am worried about small local business, however, I digress, often.
Except for the fact that Capitalism is still the economic policy of this country and most of the developing world economies, everything is going just fine. Past the normal levels of poverty and protection of the status-quo and unknown levels of violence and disaster from the results of various wars against people, small farmers and land . In the United States, War has been subcontracted out mostly to private mercenaries for the free trade use of the global oil and gas companies. Most of the population of the United States could not tell you where the United States Military is active or non active. The Internet is the main media source and Facebook ( a crowd sourced media platform built on human vanity ) is the mainstream media choice for many folks in their 30’s and older.
Christian Religions still find favor in the hearts and minds of a few pockets of American society. Science and Reason still exists, thank God, and folks are generally aware automation and technology is looming just around the corner to replace most repetitive jobs. The first self driving cars and trucks are being manufactured and tested. Freight trains are almost self driving and there are rovers on Mars still sending information back to a mostly privatized Space Program, Yet, we still do not have high speed rail. Many of the highest selling video games being marketed to the gamer populous are dystopian first person, doomsday, thematic, drone training exercises. Eastern religions and new age belief systems are on the rise, Yoga is a popular past time and there ya go, have at it … Let The Games Begin! Basically, everything has gone to pot. Weed is almost legal in every state in the nation. CBD oil and THC, USA and … GOD, guts and country.
John Paul Wright
John Paul – So, finally, Rumi. Some folks know you as a poet. Some know you as the guy who created the whirling dervishes. Some know you from little quotes on the Internet. Some know you as one of the top selling poets in the USA … Who are you?
Rumi – Well, I guess I am all of those things. I am a Sufi, from the 13th century. I was the dean, I guess, of a religious school.
JP – Dean?
Rumi – Well, I was the leader of an Islamic school, I had assistants, scribes and followers, fans and critics.
JP – Sufi?
Rumi – I am the head of an order of mystics known as the Mevlevi Order. The word Sufi is complicated. Idries Shah tried to clear that up, but in some ways he muddied the water even more and for us Sufi, that is great work!
JP – The Whirling Dervishes? How did that dance come about?
Rumi – Well, man that is a big question! We were a group of people caught in a time and place when lots of religions were competing for followers. Jesus and his people were still around and since we were in Persia, we had big celebrations and ceremony. The dance came about I guess over time to replicate the new found science of the stars. That is why we turn counter clockwise. To replicate the cosmos spinning. The dance is outlawed in my home town. I guess we we were pretty radical.
JP – People still do it? The dance?
Rumi – Yes. There is a person even in Louisville, Kentucky, Kabir Helminski. He is of my order of Sufi and they dance. There are Sufi all over the world. Not all are Mevlevi.
JP – Coleman Barks, can you speak about him?
Rumi – What can I say? Aww Man, He is just like Shams. Ha! Southern Man, wild ass nut case! He is the reason my poetry is so popular in the United States. See, Shams got my ass in trouble, so, this guy came along, he was just a regular old tradesman, redneck kinda, he challenged me in-front of all my students, called me onto the carpet. Sort of “called the question” so to say. Well, after our first meeting we became good friends, I could not believe he had the nerve to challenge me! But we became such good friends that my followers, students, my work at the school, it all suffered. Even my own son got pissed off at me, I was spending all my time with Shams. Staying up late, talking and arguing, being wild. Shams showed me a different way of life. He got my ass in trouble is what he did.
JP – What about Mr. Barks?
Rumi – Well, us mystics work in strange ways. I needed a voice for my work and his was the best I could find.
JP – Mr. Barks tells a story about a Sufi coming to him in a dream and then later meeting him sort of by chance. The dream sounds like a pretty mystical sort of guru thing, kinda like an acid trip. Did you have anything to do with that?
Rumi – No. But I did have something to do with Robert Bly.
JP– Robert Bly? The Iron John, men’s group poet?
Rumi – Yes, him, but there is way more to him than that, Vietnam protester, activist, I guess he was to become Coleman’s Shams, hell I don’t know, I, in a roundabout way, suggested to Robert to introduce Coleman to an idea. To give him a spark of inspiration. That Sufi coming to Coleman in a dream, that was all Coleman. Like I said, We Sufi work in mysterious ways, things get put into action, you have a saying, “Perfect Storm?”
JP – What was the spark of inspiration?
Rumi – To “breathe some life” into some literal translations of my work.
JP – Did he do that?
Rumi – Well, I am one of the top selling poets in the United States! I guess he did. (laughing hysterically)
JP – So, what about the whole Sufi coming to Coleman in a dream? Do you believe that part of Coleman’s story?
Rumi – Yes, but like I said, I didn’t have anything to do with that. That was all Bawa Muhaiyaddeen‘s work there.
JP – Bawa?
Rumi – Well, he is the founder of a Sufi Fellowship in Philadelphia. He is a different order of Sufi than me. He was the one who came to Coleman in a dream. I think Coleman manifested that experience out of a fear of making money and success from my work.
JP – Were you upset about his profiting from your poetry?
Rumi – No, not at all, us Sufi, or at least some of us, we give it all away anyway and get screwed more than not for what we do anyway. I was happy to see my work get the “New Breath of Life!” I think Coleman needed to find out from somebody, who was a Sufi, if what he was doing with my work was “authentic.” And I guess be respectful about his inspired work. Bawa is a very good example of what a Sufi community could be and about the best Coleman could have conjured. The Bawa fellowship is quite different than my school, we danced, they don’t do the whirling dervish thing. Bawa came for other work to the USA.
JP – What was that work?
Rumi – Well, Bawa came to the USA back when the whole Hippie Guru thing had gone out of control. The Beatles and the Merry Pranksters and that whole culture had “gone off the rails.” Bawa appealed to that crowd. And his message of love, understanding and community resonated. No drugs, no alcohol, and Islam. Bawa’s fellowship, was a perfect living example to get a look into what an Islamic Sufi School would look like. In some ways, that is why I choose Robert Bly to get the ball rolling. Bawa told the hippies, you don’t need LSD and drugs to find enlightenment. Robert was from that generation. I recently found out that there were “whirling dervish,” spinners at Grateful Dead concerts.
JP – Why do you think Coleman Barks was the voice for you work?
Rumi – He is a Southern Man. Southern people think and live in stories. They tell stories, they take a long time to trust, take a long time with saying hello and goodbye. Southern traditions are slower than some other folks in the United States. Sufi’s teach in stories. We are I guess “Long Winded.” His deep southern charm was what made my poetry come to life.
JP – Some folks say that all he did was take the ISLAM out of it.
Rumi – Well, that is what they said I did, in my time. Not to mention, the fundamentalists always say that. Even the Christians, Buddhists, all religions have their traditionalists. What Coleman did was inspired work and he tells people that from, what he would say, “git go.” I did mention that my “Whirling Dervish Dance” is outlawed in my country? See, Sufi work is inspired. People looking for the literal translation of the Bible and the Quran, well any traditionalists for that matter are stuck in time and place. If Coleman was reporting to be ISLAMIC in nature, then there would be critical problems and a reason to be very upset that he was trying to report to be something his work is not.
JP – Why do you think the USA is the place your work saw a new life?
Rumi. Hippies. Well, seriously, the United States is supposed to be a melting pot. My work is a melting pot of words, work, songs, traditions. It just was that perfect storm, I guess. Things put in place. Robert Bly’s generation of Beat Poets and Coleman’s Hippies needed it. I hear even Steven Gaskin’s folks down in Tennessee have a Sufi Circle.
JP – Well, let’s change gears. What American Music do you enjoy?
Rumi – Ha! The Blues and Jazz. Sun Ra, whoa, I really like his work. I really like Bluegrass Music. Appalachia Rising, that group is onto something. John Hartford.
JP – Bluegrass Music?
Rumi – Yes, because it comes from small working communities. Hard working farm small town people. That is what my Sufi school was. We were a small town of people who worked hard, played hard and danced in a sacred way, Ever seen a square dance? We danced in circles, that old time dancing is far from being in a square, people are whirling all over the place.
JP – thank you for your time.
Rumi – You bet!
JP – take care.
Rumi – See ya on the boat!