Tuesday, December 08, 2020

The blue file box #3

 So...as I will explain multiple times, I'm NOT a blogger...or i wouldn't have put these three posts in the wrong order....so be it...

This is the blue blue file box. It's been sitting Paula's office for years, and I'm sure I looked in it...but somehow, i missed all of these great things I found in it.

I met Paula in 1985. On my birthday, March 22nd. We spent the next 30 years together. I met her by: her answering a personals letter to the Boston Phoenix...Oh, what a great letter it was! I have to met her I thought. So I called the number she'd give and: it was no good!

I didn't seem to me that the woman who wrote that delightful artist could have been scamming me, so I wrote back to the return address. A few days later, she called me: she'd put the phone number in wrong.

I'd found her letter to me in time to use in my eulogy for her in 2015, and to get the title for my album, "Jailhouse Doc With Holes In Her Socks". 

My letter in response is....SO Medicore! But it worked: it brought me 30 years of a joyoous, passinaoate relationship.

Here's HER letter:

And here's mine. The best thing I said was that i wished I could have written one like hers!

The video was taken at WGBH recording studio, just after I'd finished a two day session and recorded my setting of Paula's poem, A WallFlower in The Amazon. 2006 I think.

The blue file box: #2

 Okay, so i'm going backwards....i should have put #1 in last...but I'm not an expereicned blogger...

This poem, on the inside of aniversery card I found  in the blue file box, that for some reason I hadn't carefully checked out, is...Paula's idea of a joke.

No one could write bad poetry with greater wit than she could when she decided she needed to. This bit of fun she would have regarded as "doggerel". So be it: I am delighted to have found it. It was for our 8th anniversary.

The blue file box: #1

I haven't put anything here in a couple of years, and i can now see it will take more than one post, and this one will end up last when it should be first....

Not like I haven’t seen the blue file box: it’s been sitting on the floor in Paula’s office for the last five years. And I’ve looked through everything. But somehow, I had missed the treasures it contains.

Paula and I used to love giving each other greeting cards….birthdays, our anniversary, holidays….I have a huge stash of them….both that she sent me, and that I sent her.
A couple of days ago, I looked in the blue file box, and found a bunch more.

Including one with a most amusing poem to me. And a letter I'd written to her.

And: this absolutely beautiful eulogy to her mother. 

I was so lucky to have her love me. I was so lucky to be able to love her.

Nobody could say these things better than Paula:




We can say about my Mother what the poet W.H. Auden said about William Butler Yeats in his famous elegy, that she


... disappeared in the dead of winter

The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted, and snow disfigured the public statues;

The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day. What instruments we have agree

The day of (her) death was a dark cold day.



And we can also say, along with Auden, that she



... became her admirers.



and that now she



...is scattered among a hundred cities.


 My mother isn't a poet living on in the hearts of her readers, but a teacher with students, years of students, countless ranks of students, in each of whom she planted a seed of music. And I would like to think that in each student the seed sprouted and took root and flowered, and that each musical flower produced seeds that took root in other lives until a whole garden of delights grew up from the one sower, the one teacher, Marcia my mother.

         ..she became her admirers.

             Now she is scattered among a hundred cities.


 It's little wonder, then, that one of my most cherished memories of my mother is a musical memory.  In the 1960's she and I took piano lessons together. Our teacher was Mary Ann Norman whose studio was in a cozy, old duplex in Newburyport on the banks of the Merrimack River. Two somber grand pianos stood side by side in the music room, far too grand for me, an indifferent student, not very talented and disinclined to practice.

 Nevertheless, I loved our drives together to and from our lessons and the intimate meal we'd share at a dark little roadside diner on the way home. I can still see, in my mind's eye, Mrs. Norman's kitchen, where I'd sit and do my homework while my mother had her lesson. The sound of voices and piano music would filter through the thick, wooden door that led to her studio. I felt happy and safe and loved, and absolutely content.

 About ten years ago I put these piano lessons into a poem called "One Piano, Four Hands." It was a long poem, full of Freudian innuendo and midair collisions over middle C, and I'll quote one short stanza here --


Mother's lessonfollowed. I eavesdropped.

Her cool fingers skimmed -- no, what did Father call it-- tickled --

the ivories, which tittered, gasped.

My ears burned. Was that my Mother ?

Rhapsodies upwelled from reticence.


 Was that my mother In the music that poured out of the piano beyond the door I caught a glimpse of Marcia that transcended the category Mother, transcended all my daughterly expectations and overflowed the pigeonholes in which I'd tried to keep her. It was as ifl were a voyeur, as ifl  were glimpsing a complete stranger in a personal, revealing moment.


 Was that my Mother ? I had the occasion to ask myself this again this past week as we went through boxes of her old photographs, papers and yearbooks. First of all, I realized my pretty Mother had not been simply pretty -- she'dbeen beautiful. Slender, poised, stylish, even gorgeous. Breathtakingly, stunningly, amazingly beautiful. A real knockout. A serious babe.

 Was that my mother ? The conventional wisdom about my mother -- at least my own conventional wisdom -- was that she was quiet, shy, reticent, reserved, even a homebody. And that this reserve was her genetic legacy to me. But, once again last week, I was confronted by evidence to the contrary. Her high school and college yearbooks are signed and oversigned on every page by masses of friends. There are photos of her on stage, in costume, arms outstretched, fearlessly singing; there are photos of her in front of classrooms full of students, teaching; there are photos of her directing gangs of sixth graders in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. There are dozens and dozens ofphotos of my mother and my father and their friends partying down. Oh, and then there are the travel photos: Marcia in Florida, California, Utah, England, Sweden, Norway, Spain, the Bahamas, Monaco, Italy and Portugal. That was my mother -- self-confident, talented, engaged with the world and the people in it. On the reserved side, yes, but certainly not a reclusive homebody.


In the end, we're all mysteries to one another and even to ourselves. We spring out of one unfathomable darkness, only to return to another darkness, equally unfathomable. In between we are entrusted to each others' care for a short, bright while. My mother -- self-effacing in the best of ways, always kind, unquestioningly devoted -- never betrayed this trust.

 My mother's last several years were difficult. Those years mustn't eclipse all that went before. As she diminished and weakened, my father cared for her with ceaseless, tender devotion, a devotion that flowed naturally out of their long, lovely, mutually sustaining marriage.


 One day, during her last hospitalization, I was sitting at her bedside. Suddenly I turned and found my mother looking at me, staring at me with a deep, frank, focused, even penetrating gaze. It startled me. I couldn't recall anyone ever holding me in such a gaze; it was like a Mother studying her newborn. It was as if she were trying to memorize me.

 Realizing I'd noticed, she seemed startled and lowered her eyes. "I was looking at you !" she said, with mild amazement, then paused, then smiled, and said --


"Here's looking at you, kid."


 It was my mother's last joke, and, I like to think, her loving farewell.


 Let us pray:

 Father of all, we pray to you for Marcia, and for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant them your peace; let light perpetual shine upon them; and, in your loving wisdom and almighty power, work in them the good purpose of your perfect will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.




Monday, November 12, 2018

Rats Live On No Evil Star

If any of you are still out there coming to this site, I'm sure it would make Paula happy.  I haven't posted here for over a year..but oh, I still miss her so....the grief has maybe changed, but it will never go away.
I haven't done very well in my quest to get her more published, but haven't given up.
In the meantime, I put out a new album...it has settings of  two of Paula's poems, those being To An Angel, and How to Clean A Sewer (in a piece called Windfall Lemons). And: Rebecca Shrimpton extracted a song from Paula's writing on these blog about the loss of a dear friend. From these House of Toast post: http://paulashouseoftoast.blogspot.com/2013/08/aftermathematician.html

This is the disc....the art work on the front (and the back) is, of course Paula's...

This is the first song I've ever written the lyrics to, my rant about Fred Phelps, who you may have read about in Paula's post: http://paulashouseoftoast.blogspot.com/2005/08/fuck-you-fred-phelps.html
The Red Dog Blues


How To Clean A Sewer
Paula Tatarunis 

There lie the rinds of things,
there in the shadows,
the indigestibles
that shamed the tongue.

The wind that howls through
that matter horn;
the dervish fire hose;
the cold and smothering clods;

the snakeroots piercing
the clotted gourd  
to god soul truth love hope heal heart--
there is no fix

but in ash-scour and the scent
of windfall lemons 
from the grove of the last 
dream before you wake.

To An Angel
Paula Tatarunis

Neither arch- or seraph-, 
far too old for cherub, 
more drone than anything,
you punch the guard clock 
of your night watch,
pushing the allowance
of fatigue and indifference,
and haul your yellowing
half-stripped scapulae 
unflappable behind you
and over me. 

Red Sea

Lyrics from the writings of Paula Tatarunis (adapted by Rebecca Shrimpton)
Music by Rebecca Shrimpton  and Darrell Katz

My latest gig nearly did me in
I’m squatting over the embers of myself
Ember and ashes
In the midst, the phone call comes
A stranger reporting a death
I was on a list to call in the event of

And the red, red sea parts for a moment
Then crashes down redder yet
The horse and the rider are swept into
The sea of someone else’s dream

The man I called the Reverend was a Marxist,
An angrily lapsed Catholic,
A man caught between his roots and aspirations
He was my first lover
We were misfit clinging to misfit
Clinging for years then drifting apart.

And the red, red sea parts for a moment
Then crashes down redder yet
He was a grace which like all graces
Was utterly undeserved
Years passed,
The Reverend reappeared
He’d had a hard life, brutal and cruel
But there was more
He’d had a vision of tall, white beings
Radiating love
In the anguish of Being
He’d found JOY, JOY

After he died, I had a dream:
The Rev left a message we’d meet
For a game of Twister
I looked up and there he was
Wearing Ray Bans
Walking away
My broken guardian angel

And the red, red sea parts for a moment
Then crashes down redder yet
He was a grace which like all graces
Was utterly undeserved

May the earthly wind
And the heavenly stars
Sing you to sleep
My old friend

Monday, February 19, 2018

....as if blessing nuptial vows...

Sorry, it took me a long time to figure out how to sign in again and be able to put up posts...
I wanted to share with you the links to videos of our October performance of The Death Of Simone Weil.
I'm so pleased with this music: perhaps we will record it again someday (perhaps not, too, alas)...
I'm also just about to send out a manuscript of a book of Paula's poetry...Paula as so good at so many things, but: she was SUCH a brilliant poet...and the blog was never much about her poetry. Of course, she was such a brilliant writer of....her somehow beyond essays...Anyway, wish me luck with that...the world deserves to be able to read her.
You cannot imagine how much I miss her. You people know her as the spiritual, cerebral writer she was here, and indeed, she was that gentle, insightful, articulate soul...but you might have not really known the down to earth person she was at home (hard to explain this, here, in fact,  she always did  paint an accurate picture of herself), the one that would amuse me by drawing devil horns and pitchforks on newspaper photos of George Bush and Dick Cheny and who had a great time with me, sending out for chinese food and watching TV....

Gone Now


November 1938

Saint Julien

X-Ray Dreams

Almost Paradise
November, 1938, the third movement of The Death Of Simone Weil. This beautiful poem is what inspired me to write the whole (six movement, 65 minute) piece...it's about a transcendent experience Simone Weil had, and longing for it to happen again...refers to several famous poems. This poem turned me into a composer whose focus is on words as that’s what I’ve been doing ever since I read that around 20 years ago. Paula was (so deservedly so) pleased with herself when she wrote this…and I read this part, standing, in our bedroom, leaning over the top of a dresser, and it sent chills down my spine. I was, and always will be, so proud of her. Honored to have known her. Profoundly lucky to have found my soul mate, who amazingly, loved me as much as I loved her. We always claimed we were the cutest couple in the world, and we were right.
                  Darrell Katz


He whose soul remains ever turned toward God though the nail pierces it finds himself nailed to the very center of the universe.
                                                                                -- S. Weil

Mal de tete, the ignominious
quotidian of my incarnation!
It drills my forehead like a nail --

like a lidless
third eye transfixed
by its desire.

If only I could flinch from it! 
This pain impales me
like an unwilling bride

to my sickbed here
guiltie of dust and sin
and wretched unwillingness.

If only I could enter
the sanctuary of the poem,
naked as a spirit, 

my miserable flesh
shed in a heap on the porch -- 
like at Easter in Solesmes,

when the plain song
plucked me aloft 
from my suffering

and I hovered like a feather
on the breath of God,
or dust in his splendour,

far above the malheur, degout et
paresse of my unworthy life:
Love bade me welcome, Love

bade me welcome, and the doctor 
brought a horrid nux vomica,
for migraine:

like a curate of the flesh,  
in his macaronic latin,
he says Mass over me. 

 Love bade me welcome, yes,
me, with my cyclops eye as raw
as the kiss God planted 

on the brow of Cain. O quick-eyed Love,
sweet sorcerer, take my unwillingness
and refine it with your flame until

what remains is the quicksilver 
of consent, and the gold of welcome, Love, 
like the smile on a beloved face,

that whispers, 
as if blessing nuptial vows,

When the plainchants
Plucked me aloft
from my suffering  

and I hovered like a feather
on the breath of God,  
or dust in his splendour,

far above the malheur, degout et
paresse of my unworthy life:
Love bade me welcome,
Love bade me welcome,
Love like a smile on a beloved face,  
That whispers,
who made the eyes but I?

The day we were married...

Monday, October 09, 2017

The Death Of Simone Weil

If any of you are still reading, and if you're in the Boston area: Thursday night I have a concert that features one of Paula's great epic poems, The Death Of Simone Weil. It was one of her works that was really special to her: Simone Weil was one of her all time favorites, and Paula wrote about her with great clarity and passion.
I found a high school list of things she loved and it included Simone Weil...who she always admired.
The poem is as much about Paula as it is about Weil.
I wrote this music 18 or so years ago. The last time we performed the whole thing (it's 65 minutes) was when a live recording of it (released by Innova recordings) was made in 2001.
I wish it would have occurred to me to put this notice here a few weeks ago, but just in case it's of any interest to you, we will be playing this Thursday night, Oct. 12, at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston. Featuring the wonderful voice of Rebecca Shrimpton (who Paula wrote about on this blog from time to time, as she had taken some voice lessons from Becky).
Like everyone that knew her: I learned so much from Paula, and I learned as much about writing music from setting this text as I have ever learned from anything....when I first read it, it sent chills down my spine: I had to try and make it into music.
You cannot imagine how much I miss her.
Anyway, this event will be a celebration of who she was....and sorry for the formatting issues: I am NOT a seasoned blogger.