Fri. May 24th, 2024

This week Santa Ana Literary Association’s yearlong poetry project is featuring the Beat Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, Rich Ferguson, because this project is not just about giving our local voices a platform; it’s also about connecting our local voices with the larger poetic community of Southern California and beyond.

A Rock of Ages

By: Rich Ferguson

(In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of the documentary Rock & Roll Made in Mexico)

In the beginning—

cosmic vibrations;
atoms joining atoms,
creating stars, universes,
acoustic waves of planets spinning,
galaxies coalescing, crashing,
ultrasounds and infrasounds
of the Big Bang
resounding across time and space.

Blank pages of age-old silences
by earth’s new formation:

river movements
forming flowing meditations;

dinosaur roar,
trees’ green laugh;
first human hands
striking stone against stone,
sparking fire, fury, war cry.

Prehistoric music, Native American
and aboriginal music
reverberating through the ages,
shamanic sounds
oscillating with onomatopoeia—

buzz, boom, growl

Ancient tones
scribed into song,
cuneiforms composed in harmonies of thirds:
three bones in the human ear,
three stars in Orion’s belt,

of the people, by the people, for the people.

Folk music, Greek music, Muslim music,
songs of deliverance,
songs of heritage and remembrance;
intonations training prophets
and everyday people
to vocalize mosaics of chorus and cadence,
aural artworks painted on air.

Enduring compositions
the fall of the Roman Empire,
the Medieval and Middle Ages.

Imprisonment transformed into enlightenment,
a renaissance of polyphony and euphony,
tongues constructing templed time signatures
reviled and revered
Baroque, Classical,
and Romantic periods;

right into
a 20th century revolution
where new technologies
captured and enraptured new freedoms
and experimentations
in musical styles and mediums.

Whole notes, half notes,
eighth and sixteenth notes—

all musical notes
leaning into one another
creating songs written and rewritten
with diverse lyrics and beats
yet still sharing the same electricity
beneath the skin;

the place where
rupture becomes rapture
and muscle memory
mimics memorable melodies
in a sweet choral repetition,
a listening deep into the body,
into the soul of rock and roll—

buzz, boom, growl

1950s American movies
bringing soundtracks
south of the border;
raucous reverberations
of Bill Haley and Elvis Presley
celebrated over Mexican radio.

Those sonic vibrations
transformed into rarified
and reinvigorated transmissions:

Cesar Costa
singing Spanish versions
of American hits,
Gloria Rios
dancing boogie steps
with rock beats.

café cantantes
and tardéadas—

Los Hooligans
Los Sparks
Los Locos del Ritmo

Lalo Toral
Johnny Ortega
Irma Estrada

El Pistón
cracking open
the canned heat,
El Brujo
flashing technicolor ambiance
of rhythm and blues.

These were not rebels
without a cause,
when their greater cause
was to rock and roll—

buzz, boom, growl

Loudspeaker prophets
and reverb’s proverbs
wailing social and political messages
heard by 60’s youth
in funky holes,
abandoned cinemas and parking lots
outside city limits.

Street demonstrations
railing against oppression—

songs of protest,
songs of healing breath,
man and woman-made melodies,
a Morse code of hope and howl
pulsing on air;

harmonic crescendos
building bridges over
oblivion’s bottomless pit;

shackles becoming the crackle
of riot’s guitar amp
cranked well beyond ten—

buzz, boom, growl

Mexican rock
growing out its
government-cut hair,
former revolutions offering new revelations,
breaking free from the underground:

La Castañeda
Café Tacuba

Songs singing seasons of new invention—
a weather as varied as good day sunshine
to heavy metal thunder.

Bombs and brutality
can’t beat down this beat
for too long
‘cause rock
is always gonna do
what it does best—
rise, baby, rise.

Electrified or unplugged,
rock transforms
the I into We,
solitude into multitudes.

Our ears cleansed
with soundwaves
of holy-water wattage
rolling through the ages;

a rock of ages,
a rock of solid rock and roll.

Pushcart Prize-nominated poet Rich Ferguson has shared the stage with Patti Smith, Wanda Coleman, Moby, and other esteemed poets and musicians. Ferguson has been selected by the National Beat Poetry Foundation, Inc. (NBPF), to serve as the State of California Beat Poet Laureate (Sept. 2020 to Sept. 2022). He is a featured performer in the film, What About Me? featuring Michael Stipe, Michael Franti, k.d. lang, and others.

His poetry and award-winning spoken-word music videos have been widely anthologized, and he was a winner in Opium Magazine’s Literary Death Match, L.A. He is the author of the poetry collection, 8th & Agony (Punk Hostage Press), and the novel, New Jersey Me (Rare Bird Books). Ferguson’s newest poetry collection, Everything is Radiant Between the Hates, was published in January 2021 by Moon Tide Press.

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

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