Creativity, Mindfulness, Music, People Watching

Beat Through

Unlike the other members of the band who splice the set together with self-deprecating anecdotes, the dude on piano and bodhran is a potty white-haired fellow who never speaks or cracks a joke. I have him pegged as the invisible base that holds up on 4/4 solid legs the tone and flourish that the fiddlers and singers — the real artists — splash across score.

The last song swells to its finish, the crowd cheers, the other musicians walk off. They leave him there lost in something as he messes with his drum. He looks up and glances around like he just noticed everyone else is gone. After a few confused and awkward seconds, he starts to tap a stick against the skin of the drum. It takes a few seconds for the audience to realize that something entirely new is happening.

The next 6 minutes are this with 6 years of mastery added:


The 2015 Martin O’Neill plays on stage alone, handling the drum with such precision that he’s making a melody from it. It’s skittering over scales, almost singing on top of its own rip-cracking beat. Then it shushes down, down before curving around what feels like a moan.

My heart is galloping but can’t keep up.

The beat topples all my assumptions.

A little skin stretched over a frame, balanced on one knee and worked with two expert hands, somehow produces how many thousand tones?

It’s humbling to find out yet again what a poor guide my judgment can be,  how very little I know about anything at all.

It’s exhilarating to let this new flavor fill my blood, to know how much more is waiting to split wide my husk of certainty.



Give Up

The place the gaze lands
is in one’s control
as is learning everything
within reach
about this here and that
just beyond.
So is what goes into the mouth
what comes out,
the tenor, the grip, the sharpness
of the blade
with which truth is pared.
The fall
onto knees. The plea
and forgiveness.
The bedtime. The book.
The lyrics and even the tune.
Action, stillness
and the flavor of silence.
What is given
away, what is squandered on trinkets,
what is stashed
in the cellar
and forgotten.

even forgetting.

But not what was buried there before,
that is not within one’s control.
Neither the place where the gaze begins
nor the native tongue. Not what is offered
up, how much, and by whom.
Not what goes into his mouth
nor what comes out. Not the shot fired,
its teeth and velocity.
Not geometry. Not ancestry.
Not gravity or the callous arc of cosmic debris.
Not sleep or dreams, the weight of the day,
the insistence of hunger, the volume
of the neighbors. Not the child’s preference
for something entirely different or the echo
of aching for something
entirely gone. The imbalance of desire.
Not the first frost.
Not the one who arrives
or the one who won’t go. Not the departure
of faith.
Not secret worlds.
Not the keeping
of words
or the end of needing