I’ve got both music and movies on the brain, which I suppose is nothing new for me. It seemed appropriate, then, to choose “Ghost” for this week’s Versus. And, no, it’s not this “Ghost,” which of course is one of my all-time favorites. Anyone who knows me understands my passion for music. Hell, to this day my dream job would be to front a band, despite the fact that I don’t play an instrument and was never actually in a band. Nevertheless, nothing seems more appealing, not even remotely. And so here I was thinking about music a lot the past couple days, and once again found myself coming back to two bands: Guided by Voices and Godspeed You Black Emperor. Sure enough, both bands are once again touring. (Note: GBV is playing in Austin on Thursday, and sure enough I’ll be there. Hmmm.) The GBV thoughts have been there due to their reunion tour, as well as the fact that I saw Pavement last week. Both bands have always been mainstays in my musical canon (along with Built to Spill). As far as GYBE, I’ve always considered them a “cinematic” band. That is, their music is visual. The only vocals are pre-recorded voiceovers, often of man-in-the-street type interviews. Consider, for instance, their fantastic record Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. It’s a double-CD containing a total of four 20-minute tracks. It’s dynamic and ambient and, well, visual, and I can’t recommend it enough.
With that, “Ghost” is a sort of homage to both bands. The name of the fictitious band referenced in the poem is a nod to the offbeat song and record titles GBV and frontman Rob Pollard are known for. And as far as the GYBE overtones? Well, hopefully some of that comes through, too. I wrote this poem in New Mexico while working on my BA, when the original band name was Ghost Over Blue Ridge. As you’ll see, I changed it. I still never felt like I got this one exactly right, but something about it still appeals to me. Maybe it’s a line here or there, but I have to think that I find its greatest appeal in that it somehow allows me to have that experience of fronting my own band, if only for a brief and fraudulent second.
I came up with a name for my band
that doesn’t exist: Ghost Over Big Springs.
It’s the name I’m after, the constant sound
of weightless flight. I want to be the ghost
who floats effortlessly over Big Springs
or some other springs somewhere, where the rest
of the nearby locals can’t help but quit
flicking their remotes for a second and
stare skyward when I traverse their well-lit
horizon like a blip on airplane radar.
I want to see what it’s like to look down
for once and figure out what put me here
to begin with, since they’ve given up on that
mystical, mythical Boogeyman who
haunts children, stops parents dead in their tracks —
that phantom of daydreams, the shapeless mass
who makes the absolute adults believe
in doubt. I want to incite an all-out loss
for words. If it becomes my luck to spook
the local village idiot — to make myself
translucent so the unfulfilled townsfolk
can claim to have seen me — so be it. Anything
for fame and flight. But will it justify
my garbled language, my late-night shrieking,
my total lack of body? I’ll want to beg
why the usual ghosts continue to coast
through the motions of returning from the dead —
of all night cackling and unrest — without
a few moments of chin-scratching and wonder,
now and again, about the crippling sounds
of their own voice. I promise to do things
differently: an onslaught of sonic clangs,
a level head, a clean-faced, fuzz-free mic
to swallow the collective oohs and aahs
of the people before I amplify them back
ten-fold in framing the soundtrack to their lives.