Farewell, Oh Strange, Exhilarating, Hurtling World: James Dickey’s “Falling”

At just under 2,200 words, James Dickey’s “Falling” occupies a special place in the poetic lexicon. It does so as a kind of fever dream that turns a dreadful event plucked from a news item of the day—a flight attendant sucked out of an airplane and plummeting to her death—into a celebration of the human imagination (Dickey’s) and the “freedom,” if you will indulge me that word given the circumstance it describes, to be found in truly, fully and deliciously letting go to death and extinction.

The poem requires only eight stanzas, hence most of them are quite long. That’s by way of preparing you, though my hunch is you will have no trouble falling right along with it.

Each stanza seems to gain speed and become more densely packed with the almost hallucinatory imagery Dickey conjures for his heroine, whom he immortalizes even as her own mortality flies up to meet her at the approximately 12...

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Brilliant Songs #47: Jacob Collier’s “Audience Choir”

Let me start with what might be an audacious claim that could make for a fun parlor or brewpub back-and-forth next time you feel inclined to jump-start a conversation or veer it away from the sordid unpleasantries that dominate our 24-hour media cycle today. To wit: what, in your opinion, is the highest of the art forms?

Much as I love and admire the arts in general and various artists in particular, I have my own unequivocal answer to that question. I think music is the highest art form—the most powerful, soaring and transformative ever devised.

Actually, “devised” strikes me as not quite the right word, given how music seems, at its most baseline level, to be pre-thought, pre-verbal, both springing from and speaking to some deep inchoate need and capacity of our bodymind to recognize, appreciate, organize and replicate sound, rhythm, and other musical elements into an organic whole for our pleasure, jo...

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A Measure of Justice, At Last

Friday morning, feeling my way down under the outward, cork-popping joy of the previous evening’s news regarding Donald Trump’s conviction on 34 counts of felonious conduct, I found something more basic: a sense of simple yet profoundly felt relief. Something akin to the completion of a long project that had presented multiple obstacles and taxed my patience and commitment and faith that I would ever see it come to fruition.


All his life, Trump had sneered at decency, laughed off honesty as fit only for suckers, marshaled his millions of inheritance dollars to hire an army of lawyers and henchmen who helped him stay one step ahead of law enforcement, the IRS, the creditors he had stiffed, the women he had abused, the students at his fake university, the contributors to his fake charities, his failed ventures in steaks and airlines and casinos and apartments, and perhaps most grievously of all, his...

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Profiles in Cowardice: The Republican Rollover for the Would-Be King

Nikki Haley is the latest, but it’s a tight contest as to who is the most craven and cynical of countless Republican Party officeholders who have forsaken all principle and moral authority in embracing a failed insurrectionist and would-be despot who has lied, evaded, bluffed and bullied his way into position to perhaps retake the presidency come November.

Haley’s recent capitulation and endorsement of Donald Trump, whom she correctly and righteously eviscerated as unfit for office over many months on the campaign trail, is particularly glaring on this Memorial Day weekend, when courage and self-sacrifice are held up as the ideals upon which every free society depends.

She joins a long list of her party’s officials who have sounded the alarm over years now about the unique threat Trump poses to our democratic institutions (see below), only to reverse course when they fear his wrath, or their dimming job p...

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A Dream of My Brother From the Great Beyond

My older (by three years) brother will have been gone 14 years this September, felled shortly after he retired at age 62 from a rare, always fatal brain syndrome known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think of and miss his presence in my life. Fortunately, he pops up in my dreams intermittently, always in some strange circumstance (dreams being what they are), but often gratifying nevertheless for the touchpoint they add up to, the real-seeming encounter in which he is alive to me for those moments, moving once again through space and time as a physical presence—until I wake up.

I’ve written here before about the often riotous imaginings of the dream world, the caution against trying too hard to drag them into our current waking life via some great literal “meaning” we can apply to become better, happier persons, all the wiser for our visitations from the Great B...

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