Phil Cousineau, “For My Father Who Never Made it to Paris”

It was given to me on a bookmark, each word of the poem spilling onto the next on both densely writ-in cardboard sides. I’d got it from the old barber around the corner of the street I used to live on, who’d been keeping it for a friend and had told me he no longer had need of it. The gravity of that statement, I have only recently come to grasp.

I lost the bookmark on a rainy day a year ago today, but the poem has stuck with me. It’s a treasure, reposed in the author’s lifelong collection of poetry titled The Blue Museum.

The following belongs, in my traced memory, to the friend of the old barber who perhaps never made it to Paris.



For My Father Who Never Made it to Paris

Phil Cousineau, for Richard Beban

For my father who never made it to Paris
I meet friends late at night in smokey cafes
To drink frothy cappuccino and listen
To Coltrane sax solos on old jukeboxes
And talk of the wounds
Of fathers and sons

For fathers and sons
Who never returned home,
I reach down for words to express my grief,
Like an emergency ward surgeon groping
For stray sharpnel in the flesh
Of bleeding loved ones.

For all the words never found between men,
The buried burning words slowly infecting us,
I drop quarters in no-name bar telephones.
To call suicidal friends, distraught fathers,
Lone wolf sons who howl at the indifference of the moon,
And offer the round table of brotherhood.

For all the tumors caused by sorrow,
And all the ulcers formed by anger,
For all the nightmares wrought by rage,
And all the emptiness carved by despair,
I probe friends and family
For healing stories.

For my father and all fathers
Who never saw Paris,
One friend listens, reveals,
Reaches in an open wound,
Finds a piece of gold shrapnel,
Cashes it in for airfare,
Takes his father to the Left Bank.

So the healing
Can begin.

Paris, 1986


Photography: Alex J. | SOUTH KOREA. Seoul. 2013.

Inspiration: David Gray

“Gulls” is among David Gray’s latest song releases, and I absolutely love the videography! While there’s nothing complicated in this, the camerawork is excellent and the scenes blend into the song. The video itself neither uber-creative nor outstanding — but it feels genuine, and for me that’s what in turn makes its simplicity so creative and outstanding. It’s a “quiet creative”. This reservedness takes full expression in David Gray’s songwriting:

This land belongs to the gulls
And the gulls to their cry
And their cry to the wind
And the wind belongs to no-one
Gulls (“Multineers”, 2014)

And sometimes my soul flickers
As the wind of change blows cold
Over the mire of repetition
Down the corridors of rigmarole
Let the Truth Sting (“A Century Ends”, 1993)

But the subtleties of expression do not diminish the message:

Once you sang your own song
Now you’re dancing to the same drum
What have you become?
And what is that you’re wearing?
Money’s ugly confidence
What Are You? (“Flesh”, 1994)

And they can plunder
The cave of sorrows
They can strip the gallery bare […]
In our heads, choke every spark
In a cloak of despair
But we got something
They can’t stifle
With their price tags
And picture frames
Got a flower for every rifle
Putting flesh on the bones of my dreams
Flesh, David Gray (“Flesh”, 1994)

The feeling I get is that David Gray speaks not to a “listener out there”, but to the self and to experience. And when he does, his lyrics are thickly saturated with deep, personal meaning:

I told her people had been talking
About how dark she was inside
She said my hopes are buried in the soil
Deep in the earth outside
And with one twist of the world
She brought me to her side
She asked me for the truth one time
And all I did was lie
Lead Me Upstairs (“A Century Ends”, 1993)

I went looking for someone I left behind
Yeah but no-one, just a stranger did I find
I never noticed hadn’t seen it as it grew
The void between us where the flame turns blue
Flame Turns Blue (“Lost Songs 95-98”, 2000)

Condensed, poetic:

A million to one outsiders
Nightblindness
Can’t see
Your bright eyes are what
The time is
Twenty five past eternity
Nightblindness (“White Ladder”, 1998)

And his metaphors are some of the most vivid that I’ve encountered. Like those in Nemesis:

‘Neath an avalanche – soft as moss
I’m a creeping and intangible sense of loss
I’m the memory you can’t get out your head
If I leave you now
You’ll wish you were somewhere else instead
I’m the manta ray — I’m the louse
I am a photograph they found in your burned out house
I’m the sound of money washing down the drain
I am the pack of lies baby that keeps you sane
Nemesis (“Draw the Line”, 2009)

David Gray has a music style that, I guess, may be more of a love-or-hate thing, but he’s definitely worth a listen. The variety of voice in the lyrics runs the gamut from intense personal experience to more distant reflections, and in listening, each song evokes the sense that every line is David Gray’s own. With respect to photography, I identify as the candid observer — candid, not in the sense that the camera captures objectively what is the case, but in the sense that it captures best how I see the world. It’s precisely this personal realness that I love, and which David Gray does so well. He delivers it like he means it.

As for my updates: yes, I do have many, many photos on the line. I just haven’t had a chance to go through them yet. I’ll be uploading sets this weekend, so keep an eye out for those!

Inspiration: François-Xavier Marciat

“European Landscapes” — Black and White

“Miscellaneous & Coloured”

“L’eau…” (Work for Mixart Belgium 2007 exhibition)

Photography by François-Xavier Marciat (http://expo.f6creations.com/)

All photos have been taken directly from Marciat’s online portfolio, linked above, and placed under subheaders as categorised by the photographer himself. I’m mostly a fan of his black and white photography, but I couldn’t bring myself to skimp on the colour pieces.