Touched Tone

You pick it up. Where you left off. All those years ago. Just like riding a bicycle. The same thrill. The same reckless abandon. A controlled burn, combusting into colors that could only be created in the wild laboratories of imagination.

Your fingers falling right in place. That ecstatic sense of pauses in time. Hitting the note perfectly...ringing through the immeasurable distance you've traveled in thoughtless neglect. Searching around to find the one chord to accompany this strange and highly potent progression.

I'm trying to write my song. I never really stopped. But seriously misguided hooligans keep coming around and halting me in my tracks -- breaking my fingers and beating up my guitar. Or the noise coming from the streets drowns out my voice. Or the demons inside my head start demanding more than their share of attention. Or some raven-haired beauty sends me running up a tree. Or I just get too tired and need to rest a while.

But I keep trying. I heal my wounds and put the pieces back together. I shut out the noise and appease my demons with bitter thoughts of glory. And I huddle beneath the covers till all the temptresses heed the inevitable call to better tended shores. I mend. As best I can. And go about my duties with a renewed resolve. A little worse for the wear. But such is the nature of this poorly booked gig.

Cold Saturday night. Holed up in my travesty. Shivering in a miserable overcoat. Waiting for the call that will take me away. And when it comes I can't seem to bring myself to pick up the receiver. In no shape to hold up my end of the conversation. The things I have to say don't make an ounce of sense. Cents. Coins hardly worth your while. Taxed beyond recognition. Face values that slink behind the dumpster to count their blessings. Longings that rise above the clouds and disappear. Meaningful looks that glance off the sides of opened windows. What will we do with everything we have?... when it winds up amounting to nothing.

I saw that. I've walked those soiled grounds. With my ear to the wind and my cheek in my lapel. So do us both a favor and don't even bother. Surrounded by contaminated by-products. Nowhere to turn. Covered up and washed clean. Doesn't do you any good. Stay perfectly still. And watch the hours slip away. Tally up the untouched inventory. See where it can possibly take you. Get a good feel.

Old stomping grounds. I used to own this whole block. There wasn't a place around here I couldn't walk in and claim a friendly greeting. What happened? Have I been away so long? I'm still awaiting word from my dear friend. Supposed to drop me a line any moment. But that was a long time ago. I guess. I never quite calculated the point of precious return. I just figured all given values at their current worth. Silly me. I should probably go back through my steps and see if I made some mistake along the way. But what would be the point?

A thousand voices that will never speak again. So where can I find myself coming off? I am no saint. I am no beautiful angel. I can not play the role of a decent prophet. My visions are worth less than a meager meal of potatoes and collard greens. Not to mention those empty bottles on the counter. I was busy out freeing the innocent. And I came back to find the world behind bars. What am I to do with you? Good intentions have gone seriously astray. I don't know what to make of anything. Anymore. I can't even find a moderately trained backup player to accompany my tasteless elegies. You'd understand if you could hear the music in my head. But it gets displaced. Before it can find a solid piece of ground to call its own.

There are sounds that persist through the night which I can not bring myself to acknowledge. I know my weaknesses. I have taken great care to allow them a place to grow strong. I haven't eaten for days. I'm hungry. But I can't find the courage to serve myself up a meal. Who am I to bare my teeth? These days.

I am reminded of how early it is. So why does it feel so late? The darkness falls before I can scrape the sleep from my eyes. I'm living in a world that slips away. I'm trying to get my bearings in a universe that has turned itself out. Upside down. Out of sorts. You'll forgive me if I seem a bit dazed. It's not that I want to let you down. It's just that I am feeling a deep sickness in my heart and I am afraid to step beyond the defined confines of my roped off existence.

I know I'm not safe. I'm not better off. I'm no better than anybody else. I'm just running with the one thing I can hold on to.

This old notched guitar. And this set of fingers. And the stained keyboard that so patiently allows my fumbling for words. My humble work in progress. A song. A story. A worried attempt to reach beyond the confines of my room and stretch my imagination. Out the window. Into the cold breeze. To find a fellow journeyman, trapped amidst the falling debris of shady intentions. Shining my fading light. With no promise of rescue.

Just a friendly tap on the shoulder.

~ ~ ~


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