LOVE L-E-T-T-E-R-S (Part Two)

by Hills Snyder July 10, 2021

The week of the solstice was chosen to start the appearances of LOVE L-E-T-T-E-R-S on Glasstire because it’s not cultural in, say, the way the evening news is cultural. Sure, we assign meaning to the solstice, but in truth, it happens without us, whether we notice it or not. It’s a cycle of occurrence that benefits us in accordance with our acknowledgement. So much of the business of human culture seems so unsustainable, so top heavy. It’s a burden we can bear only by sharing it. Here’s some more love.

A growing number of people have been asked two questions, followed by a third in response to their answers to the first two.

Question 1: What is at the top of your mind?

Question 2: What is in the bottom of your heart?

Read on.

LOVE L-E-T-T-E-R-S (Part Two)

Bale Creek Allen (artist, Austin, TX)

1. Moving, my kid’s graduation, Montana, the gallery, future art projects, Santa Fe in June, Marfa in July, deadlines galore, travel, playing live music, the dreams I’ve been having, seeing my folks, De Cordova, a lot of change, covid…

2. Politics, pop culture, bad tv, bad books, gentrification, pretentious people, mean people, things that are average, the phrase “next level,” overused words like “genius,” taxes, Homeowners association, members-only clubs, covid, etc…

3. Did you have an especially telling dream, one that takes a turn toward anything you haven’t articulated in some way?

I had a dream that the water was dark and deep and strong. I was protecting my youngest boy, and I wrote a song about it when I woke up. The chorus goes like this:

Oh help me please
Oh help me please
I’m begging you
But I can’t find my knees
The water is black and the
Wind is severe
Please get us out of here.
(copyright 2021)

Jesse Amado (artist, San Antonio, TX)

1. What is at the top of my head. 

Entering, still empty, screen porch removing my hat releasing the top thought, first about how unruly Time, Time, Time again maneuvers rapidly like a turn in the road. Just missing the spilt wine as we toast to the future.

2. What is in the bottom of my heart. 

Space to share (inquire within).

3. Jesse, for you, has time been the revelator?

Yes. Absolutely. Many times. Revelator (never used this word before in a writing) indeed. Recently spent time on the third coast. Grand view of surf as I perched peering at 40 ft. Every time a wave broke causing timed sounds, loud ones. Causing a visionary’s timeless dream. Time after time the waves surged forth, then as the sun set the moon arrived as timed to illuminate brightly. Then everything drifted. It was bedtime.

One last thing. Actually, Bowie said it best: Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.

Olive Ayhens (artist, Dumbo, New York)

growling. Top of mind

sorrow. Bottom of my heart

3. OK, let’s keep it simple (as if): What grows in your rows?


Jenny Browne (poet, San Antonio, TX)

It’s raining hard right now, so at the top of my mind is water, and the notion that we all are, essentially, bodies of water? How to better live out of that knowing?

In the bottom of my heart is the bottom of the sea, which may or may not be an answer.

3. This may or may not be a question?

A leaf of sleep beneath the wires.
A taxi is a great refrain.

The rain just called us back too late.
The weary word slipped underfoot

A yesterday not meant to save
as the love note, the sweet tooth, the shove.

Garrett T. Capps (musician, San Antonio, TX)

1. What is at the top of your mind?

My brain jukebox

2. What is in the bottom of your heart?


3. What song is playing right now?

Meatloaf — Life is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back

Nate Cassie (artist, San Antonio, TX)

1. What is at the top of your mind? 

School and my students are at the top of my mind a lot these days. Trying to help them discover who they really are or want to be is made more difficult than normal and is very tough over Zoom.

2. What is in the bottom of your heart?

Time. Time passing, wanting this pandemic moment to be over but at the same time being conscious of each moment I will never get back.

3. I’ve met some of your students and know they are getting plenty from you. I’m sure they are excited about a return to in person encounters. How do you imagine or what can you say about the first week back?

The first week back is hard to see right now. I am trying to focus on the daily concrete tasks and not look too far into the future. I sort of imagine a lot of wide-eyed looking around if we are back in person as some of them will not have not been in the physical space since March 2020. It will be a bit like walking into a time capsule with all their old projects and some that had been left in process.

Cathy Cunningham (artist, San Antonio, TX)

1. What is at the top of my mind?

Every day I keep in mind to practice a way of living that helps nurture, protect and honor what needs taking care of, be it people, communities, or nature. Every aspect of life is a part of a larger whole where each part is dependent on one another. I try to conscientiously be aware of that and steward with true caring and compassion to keep that circle whole.

2. What is at the bottom of my heart?

A fullness of gratitude.

3. Does your sense of protecting ever blur your vision when it comes to honoring?

No, I don’t believe it does. But my vision really blurs when I’m on the computer too much, and I have to protect my eyes by wearing glasses. As much as I respect my optometrist, I gotta say they didn’t get my prescription right.  But I am honored to be at least partially protected from pondering the blur.

Jeff DeCuir (musician, Belleville, IL)


Barbie’s Revenge, Get Real, Gloomy Gus, Prenatal Lust, Mystery Dates, Smart Dads, Shortwave LTD, Shit City Dreamgirls, Dem Vackra, Mira Radar, Honey Barbara, Dreamland, Robo Trumble , Savior Daughters, SA Slayer, Platform of Youth, Pink Filth, Junior Vacuums, Lost in Space, Crevice, Daddy Monkey, Pseudo Buddha, FIFH,  Cornhandlers, Beat Zombies, Touchdown Tiger, Lysergic Dream, Paisley Babylon, Goop, Moonrox, Toejam, Demitasse, Hickoids, Tiger Babes, Hyperbubble, Floating Opera Band, Beans and Rice,  DJ JJ Lopez, Shit Magnets, Big Drag, 101 Theremins, CHS, Jet Race Wheeler, M.D., Raging Woodies, Angel’s Grace, Cerebral Distortion, Butthole Surfers, Infidels, Sons of Hercules, B.D.M.F., Toys You Can Eat,  Julie Good, DJ Epser, Exploding Sex Kittens, No Way Muffo, King Pelican, The Swindles, The Ideals, The Pirates of Destiny, Tamale Hatchet, Spleen…


ST Shimi, Infinity Asylum, Rodeo Ho Ho, Mania, Menudocide, Wolverton, Buttercup, Dreambored, The Sachsen Apocalypse, Von Economo, Johnny Love, Daddy Monkey, Garrett T Capps, Meat Machine, Fundigs, Soul Sludge, Rudy Hearst, The Perturbed, Nuklear Fishstiks, Spanked With a Goodie, Pitbull Daycare, Fineline, Sleaze Freaks, Justin Boyd, Children in Pain, Hydraulic Snomen, Red Square, The Mechanical Walking Robot Boy, Empire State, Love in the Space Age, Vesper, Bizarre Musik Machine, Analog Love, Saturday Night Satellites, Pulsating Love Flower, The Rejects, Boxcar Satan, Plastic Patrick, Crippled By Society, Deathtripper, Bombardiers, Ray Palmer, Worm, One Destiny, Pinata Protest, Bang Gang, Los Number 3 Dinners, The Swindles, Yes Body Else, The Ideals, Happy Dogs, Space Team, Paisleys, Tubular Face, Heather Leather…

3. I have to say I’m surprised to see the Fundigs mentioned in your prodigious band name rattle. You must have been there that December night at Sala Diaz. So, thanks for the memories — that is my Hope, that everything is remembered. That ultimately, nothing is lost. That who each of is outshines who each of us who isn’t. Another memory: Los Number 3 Dinners performed at The Bonham for Mike Casey’s 70th birthday in 2011. My drums were the house set that night and their drummer fingered the name of the band in the dust on the kick drum. I’ve let it stay there and no matter how much other dust gathers on top of it, the moniker faintly remains, as if some sort of membrane protects that moment from fading. Can you address the membrane?

Music is Magic

Geoganne Deen (artist, Joshua Tree, CA)

top of the mind in 3 parts:

It’s been known for over a century that the brain functions at its optimum when utilizing the vast amounts of data streaming to it from the heart. Then all of the other systems of the body are better served: the organs, glands, nerves, and the chemicals we need to rest and restore are available, breathing deepens and the fight or flight program is turned off. Ignoring our heart is unhealthy, not just for ourselves but for everyone and everything, including the earth itself. But to engage the heart, one must engage feelings. We know it’s unhealthy to ignore our feelings yet we continue to pass that habit along generation after generation.

I’m not aware of there being conversation about this or the mental health crisis in art discourse. Its\

stigma remains rooted in arguments that serve the intellect only. But what a price we pay for that! Suicide numbers are over twice the homicides in the US; between 10% and 20% of people over the age of 13 can’t function without an antidepressant. We try to offload anxiety and depression with addiction. Unsurprisingly, addiction is one of the biggest money makers in America.

Given the choice between creating something that might heal a deep wound, something that still stifles the heart after all these years, or dancing to the tune of a market that doesn’t even know that a mind like yours exists, what is this life for if not to transform every good thing that’s been broken, including our relationship with the heart?

What’s at the bottom of my heart:

The heart has a lot to say but I don’t always listen to it. When I can translate it into words, it’s poetry. At the bottom of mine, it’s all about the presence or absence of love and what to do with that today.

3. Deep and wide and well-grounded are these words, and to the heart of the essential wrong turn that keeps being made in the culture at large. I figure progress moves at such a glacial (oh dear, no longer a good term for something moving slowly) pace that we are just too narrow or too impatient to see it, though the possibility that heart seeing will forever be staked out by commerce persists, even though it’s unsustainable as are so many of the ways of the collective us. You’ve actually given me further insight into a certain song lyric — “you can bring your own redemption when you come.” — Like you said, what else is it for but fixing what’s broken. And daily. What got fixed recently?

Out of curiosity I participated in a ceremony with others intended to heal the mother relationship. Had I known what I was walking into, my knees would’ve been knocking. What I saw behind Mother’s default cocktail of cultural and ancestral engineering was so shockingly beautiful that I feel like I’ll never stop crying for the way I treated her most of her life. That colossal love was something I never expected to feel in this lifetime. With some time and fine tuning, a good thing has been repaired

Neil Fauerso (writer, San Antonio, TX)

1.What is at the top of your mind? 

A whirling gyre, a ticker read out, some constant flux, slot machine symbols never lining up, wondering about things like: what was the Taiping rebellion, what year was Danny DeVito born, how much the gold audiophile CD of Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick is because I need it right now.

2. What is in the bottom of your heart? 

Nothing. But not a dark nothing, not an abyss. More like when you take a boat out to the middle of Lake Tahoe and jump in and look down as the sun turns the color of the water a kind of empty, translucent turquoise, like those jars of Barbicide at the barber shop. That nothing. 

3. I could ask if you were abided the chance to listen to Thick As A Brick, but I’m going to go with this — You manage to download that flux quite well when you write. Same when you speak. Sometimes I can hear you whir, even if you say there is a misalignment. When you are engaged in a writing project, are there specific ways you make use of misalignment?

The misalignment is the alignment. I think it’s likely I have ADHD, or at least have enough symptoms that I could probably get a prescription for pharmaceutical meth (adderall/ritalin) if I wanted to. Imagine the horror if I had done that; I could be working for a big law firm right now, actually successful — I shudder to think. I let myself cast and unspool wherever the lure might plop and ripple in the water of the world.

Mark Hansen (artist, San Antonio, TX)

Top of my mind: I read an article on how hard it will be for those that have social anxiety to go back to something like normal. I was struck by how much I related to it. I even opted out of the party where Buttercup played even though I care for all of these people. I felt that I would be overwhelmed. Also, I have been finding it pretty satisfying just making nice pots. I have always relegated my clay work as secondary when it comes to making things that we might call art. I struggle with letting that be alright.

Bottom of my heart: Sometimes I need a mountain. I like the roofing nails thing [from the intro to Part One]. Anticipation. Being put to work. Getting used up. There is not always more in the box. Collection; like the grocery list. Reminded me of your list of possible band names. I never freaking write them down. Have had some good ones but I never remember them. I am sitting here ruminating on the roofing nails in a tool belt. I like where it is taking me. Less than eager — hard to get started sometimes but once you do… I have done a good job. This is solid and will stand for a long, long time. Even though this is a completely ordinary thing, I should be proud of what I have done. Roofing nails as cartoon characters or in a children’s book. Me and my buddies have a job to do. They are slowly disappearing. It is terrifying being pulled from the bag. Sometimes you need to be hit by a hammer to find your proper destiny. Will let you know if there is more. Much love from here.

3. Would you care to compare destiny and fate?

Destiny vs fate. Quite the compare-and-contrast question. According to good old Noah W, destiny is about the inevitable and fate is about predestination. I am sure that she got it somewhere, but I will attribute it to Aimee Mann, since I like her so well. In one of her tunes, she says that luck is something that you make. Destiny is like that. Informed and directed by you and those around you. A push toward some outcome (for good or ill). One of my favorite characters in literature is Jack Gibbs in William Gaddis’ JR. He keeps a list of interesting concepts. The Unswerving Punctuality of Chance is on this list. I found out recently that this is from Thomas Wolfe. This has been described as the machinery behind our lives. I think of this as things that happen without any intention or control. Fate.

Anthony Dean Harris (writer, San Antonio, TX)

Thanks for asking us to do this! I’ve been ruminating on these questions for about a week now, letting them turn over in my head, responses perhaps tumbling out as anecdotes searching for form. If anything, I more easily had an answer to the latter question than the former, but that process then did the work for me.

2. I could immediately answer “What’s at the bottom of my heart?” because if there is anything I have learned more and more over the years, it’s that I’m an assemblage of anecdotes, adages, rules, and bits (the comedic kind). There is an orthodoxy of Anthony that has helped me navigate the world, just as crucial to me as my oscillating Christianity. “‘How’ is always a more interesting question than ‘What’.” “Action doesn’t come without a catalyst; rule doesn’t come without precedent.” “…at the end of the day, you’re just a dude in a Whitesnake t-shirt.” “It’s not just a product, but also a process.” There are so many sayings helping me keep order of things, acting as my map, my compass, and my sextant. It’s my filter to the rest of the world. Especially after a year that had to find new form, I had to be certain of something in a reality clouded in doubt.

1. That being said, this process of filtering has always been what’s at the top of my mind. Whether it be going through the trauma every morning of reading the updates of the Derrick Chauvin trial, or navigating a world COVID-19 vaccinated since February and figuring out how to live comfortably again, or just the act of trying to be social in any context at all continues to run through the filter of my assorted platitudes, making sense of it all, and I’ve always been a sucker for process stories. “The answer comes when you wait long enough.” “You don’t think far enough, son.” “Come to Splashtown, now with shorter lines!” “Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it,” which is closely related to its corollary — “Anything you’re holding, you’re carrying.” These sayings I’ve taken on remind me of stories I heard of my grandfather and the sayings he would have — “Laziness is gonna kill you;” “Anything that goes in, comes out;” “You have to have a ‘want to.’”  I think about how I’m trying to put upon myself the same sort of battle armor of wisdom he seemed to do when he was molding my mother. I think about the man of character he was and who I try to be. I know this is all part of the process of living which is the basis forming just over the sustenance that I have to get through in Maslow’s Hierarchy. It’s the Why behind the How which is most certainly more interesting that the What of it all.

I’d like to be able to say your questions kicked my mind in this general direction, but it’s more so that I was already stumbling around in this neighborhood lately and you gave me a better idea of the address. It’s nice having a better idea where to walk.

Hope all is well with you. I’d love to see what this turns into.

3. “turns into” is so on the money. I so relate to the “how” being more interesting than the “what.” I would elaborate by saying that the what can only be known if the how is right. And then you’ve added the third point of a triangle, “why.” Is there a point of entry here and once in, is it just movement between three points or is some sort movement to a fourth position possible?

Whenever I use that expression, it’s usually when I’m about to analyze something that exists in the world or I’ve just been tasked to execute some idea. Every architectural marvel, environmental oddity, fascinating person is a culmination of happenings surrounded by circumstances that brought that What to my presence, wondering How it came to be. Not everything may necessarily have a Why or even a well-executed plan for that What to exist (outside of nature, because there could be Whys that are really just Hows about the Whats of occurrences, nature doesn’t care about us, which is a particularly cool thing about nature), but it has a story that I wonder about, that goes beyond the surface. In that same degree, there are folks out there with ideas — artists making a new work, editors who are looking for a take, restaurant managers desiring a different approach, projects that need tackling or organizing, objects that need schlepping — whatever big or small to whatever degree, sometimes people ask Whats of folks who then have to figure out How to make it happen, in my personal experience. Those who have those big ideas, the wanters of the Whats, have their Whys for their Whats. Every now and then, I inquire about them, or see how those Whys lead to how they influence other Hows and Whats throughout the world, but the world is massive and I can only ask so many questions and do so many tasks in so many hours in the day. I haven’t been great about asking for Whats myself, I’m still trying to get better at that with age, still learning my own sense of utility and self. If there’s another question other than those to explain the universe in at least four dimensions, I don’t really know if there’s more than what eventually whittles down to essentially those three. I could be wrong, I just don’t know What that other question would be.

Guy Hundere (artist, San Antonio, TX)

1. What is at the top of your mind?

Whatever has my attention at any given moment. Your email arrived right after I jotted down a note to myself that read “don’t mistake heartache for love”

2. What is in the bottom of your heart?

Benevolence and fear

3. A theme that seems to run through this multilogue is the notion that every moment potentially takes one closer to something. How do you increase your odds?

This question seems more like a riddle, The Gambler’s Dilemma. As I’m moving closer to something, most likely I’m moving further away from something else. I could convince myself that I’ve chosen the inevitable outcome in which case my odds increase exponentially, and Garth Brooks is a Taoist. If skill is a factor then I’ll hedge my bet through deft maneuvers, cunning and grace. Otherwise, I can only hold onto my ticket, say a prayer, and enjoy the ride. Even Niels Bohr kept a horseshoe hung over his door.

Richard Keith (musician, San Antonio, TX)

What is at the top of your mind?

The impact of the COVID crisis on artists is something that has worried me a lot lately. A friend of mine — a fantastic songwriter here in San Antonio — had to close his bar this year for example. This was brutal because owning that bar helped him to make a living so that he could make music. Many others lost their jobs or had their hours slashed and are having trouble making ends meet. 

I’m very lucky in that I have a day job that has been stable throughout, and my work there has been even busier than usual. I work for the City, coordinating services that help residents increase their financial stability, so over the last year or more I’ve been focused on helping residents financially impacted by the COVID crisis to connect to rent assistance, free financial counseling, utility bill assistance and emergency food supplies.

Also at the top of my mind is the recent release of the new album Fort Knox by my band, Monomials. Creating an album during quarantine has been a roller coaster ride to be sure. Monomials had started recording Fort Knox at the end of 2019 with the amazing musical guru Joe Reyes, but then COVID slammed down on us all in March 2020 and it became clear right away that we were not going to be able to get together in the same room for quite a while. With Joe, we had recorded the basic tracks for many of the songs, but a lot of work was still needed: re-recording certain parts, adding extra voices and parts, and working with guest musicians. We thought the quarantine was surely the end of our album project for the foreseeable future. This was a sad moment at a time filled with a lot of sad moments. 

But after a few weeks we woke up and dusted ourselves off and decided to just learn how to use the multi-track recording software ourselves, led by bandmate Troy Peters. Troy and I and our other bandmates Brandon Henson and Eric Peterson each began to take turns recording our parts in isolation in our own living rooms, and then we uploaded the takes one by one to shared cloud storage, and Troy got to work mixing them. We even enlisted guest musicians to add parts from the safety of their own homes too. Little by little, brick by brick, the tracks started to come together as we envisioned them. 

Over the months that we were doing this, I also managed to write some new songs, and we ended up including three of these on the record. At the time that I am writing this, Monomials still has never played the three songs live or even in the same room together. Technology can sometimes yield human and magical results. 

What is at the bottom of your heart?

Making art during the long pandemic months has added a lot of richness and purpose for me. I am always trying to tell some kind of story when I write a song, and the songs on Fort Knox are stories about bank heists, sled dogs, runaway trains, tornados, superheroes, alien visitors and desperate cross-state road trips. But to me deep down the songs are essentially about hope and longing in the face of isolation and exile, danger, mortality, responsibility. These are themes that have grabbed at me for most of my life, but at the time we released the album, it seemed that more people were now tuned into these themes too, and suddenly Fort Knox was feeling like an album that is trying to deal with the pandemic. The band has been talking about this a lot lately. I love the way art has the potential to be interpreted in different ways depending on the historical or cultural moment in which we are experiencing it. 

In one of the songs, Meteor, which was written before the pandemic, there is a phrase, “When your boat went down, you swam right past the sharks and got back to town, and still your heart pumps, and there’s still air right there in your lungs.” That line feels so different to me post-2020, and moving forward it probably always will. Our towns and neighborhoods are starting to open up again, and arts spaces and music venues are slowly coming back. We’ve lost some venues, which hurts, but there will also be new ones coming that don’t even exist yet. I can’t wait to get out there and stand in an audience again listening to live music by the bands we love, and also to play our own songs in front of people somewhere. Let’s raise a glass now to new beginnings and brighter days ahead. 

3. I’ve been loving Fort Knox. It is indeed golden and I didn’t have to break in or wear a tuxedo to get my ingot. And I’d say this project is a bit of a cross-state road trip in which any straight line quickly forms a Y. Yoga Berra was fond of saying that when you get to one, take it. When are the Monomials coming to play in Magdalena?

Thanks Hills, I’m so glad to hear that you are enjoying Fort Knox. A cross-state road trip to Magdalena, New Mexico is a great idea that should become a reality. I’ll get to work on it with the band — where there’s a Y there’s a way.

Mark Little (musician, San Antonio, TX)

1. The top of my mind is, as always, the pinnacle of thought and purpose.

Music.  plain and simple as that

2. The Bottom of my heart is the same as the top of my mind.

Music. It’s all and always about the music. Music after all is the true voice of GOD.

A language without words. That everyone understands. It speaks to every living thing in the universe. Without prejudice or malice. Don’t confuse music with lyrics. Music is what’s left when you take the words away. The melody. Don’t misunderstand, I love the stories told by the lyrics, poets writers of all kinds. But when they (the writers) hang those lyrics on a melody. That’s Music.

3. What is the first thing you hear when you quiet everything around you? 

That’s easy. Believe it or not. Music is what I always hear. Always have. In fact, for years I had the hardest time sleeping because I couldn’t turn the music off in my head. I had to learn how to “turn it off” so I could eventually get some rest.

Charmaine Locke (artist, Carbondale, CO)

For the project for Glasstire — and beyond.

Buffeted by turbulent waters, some find their sea legs, their equilibrium, and square themselves for the roll, the disorientation of the inner ear, and maintain life’s balance against all odds. Many are not equipped with the same facilities, can not maintain forward momentum, and succumb to the forces.

Current times are disorienting and slippery, enormous shifts in energetic forces propel a vortex to form.

Bright souls light the way and hold the edge, bolster themselves from unseen wellsprings within to deny the gravitational pull and emerge intact.

3. So, if you’re taking a stroll around the circumference of the vortex, the possibility to lose your footing and slide in is with you every step. There may even a temptation to do so. What is the well you’re drawing from to keep you on the razor’s edge?

Change is the constant in life, and the knowledge that the storms will settle, the waters will calm, and the souls striving for movement beyond the imbalances will prevail.

Gordon McConnell (artist, Billings, MT)

1. “I have no words,” she said. “My voice is my sword. We know the sword is our work and we like work. Thank you for knowing that and thanks for this.”

2. During the course of the conversation, I said that I thought The Wild Bunch, grounded in the realities of conflict, was probably the greatest Western film, but that my heart belongs to the romanticized version depicted in My Darling Clementine. 

3. Frances McDormand’s speech was vorpal before it went viral. I bet she wouldn’t put up with being dunked in a horse trough either. That might be why you like her. If you were to do a show of three paintings, one with an image derived from My Darling Clementine and another with an image from The Wild Bunch, what film would the third painting draw from?

The third painting would have to draw from Once Upon a Time in the West (C’era una volta il west), which was filmed simultaneously (1968) with The Wild Bunch and featured Henry Fonda (22 years after My Darling Clementine), not as the righteous, vengeance-seeking town marshal, but as a remorseless killer.

In crafting the scenario for Once Upon a Time in the West, Sergio Leone and his collaborators watched and drew motifs from a few dozen Hollywood Westerns, including My Darling Clementine. Leone was a cynic who loved the Western but did not believe in its mythology. Sam Peckinpah was more of a disillusioned romantic. Both recognized that technological progress brought an end to the Wild West. Both men admired the artistry of John Ford and paid homage to his work. My Darling Clementine was Sam Peckinpah’s favorite Ford Film.

Last week, I stood on the stage of Billings’ recently restored movie palace, the Babcock, and introduced Once Upon a Time in the West to an audience gathered for a “Spaghetti Western Dinner” fundraiser. The last time I had seen the film on the big screen was in 1977 at the Roma Theater in Antwerp. It was quite an experience to see that baroque cinematic masterpiece in the home city of Peter Paul Rubens — and the view of America from Europe, so meticulously crafted by Sergio Leone. And, it was wonderful to see now at an independent movie house that survived the pandemic.

Jo Carol Pierce (musician, Austin, TX)

1. What’s on top of my mind?
Cynthia Pierce
9/9/47 – 2/7/21
My frail and pale sister who hates to be cold was left to freeze to death by those she paid to keep her safe.
She’s brilliant, poetic, private and naïve as fresh fruit.  Imperious and uncertain. A Greek scholar. A magical thinker.
Who is she like?  Nobody ever. Only two of us know her and we can’t let her go.
I keep her on top of my mind.

2. What’s in the bottom of my heart?
A doctor warned me the bottom of my heart is a very troubled neighborhood and only heavily armed cardiologists should risk that road down there, the one he called the Widow Maker Artery but somebody asked me, so I caught a whisper down there and man, she was right. Hairpin turns, dead ends, torn window screens, deflated balloons, and finally through a heavy door: Cynthia.

I had been chasing her through my dreams with a freshly shorn golden fleece to keep her warm. She twirled it on her index finger as she perched cross-legged on her silken chaise like a silent movie star, humming to herself. I offered her a ride on my whisper back up to the top, throwing in the promise of a Starbucks, but she claims to be quite at home in the Everywhere she had found, and went back to dreaming and humming.

She lives in the bottom of my heart.

3. Your words describe something horrific that happened to someone you love. And they suggest images that sing. The failures that brought about her death have to be addressed, but what else will you do with the energy that comes with this kind of grief?

I’ll sing Cynthia, I’ll sing her name and her qualities and I will keep gathering her up in a basket of stories to lay along her paths but it’s not just Cynthia my dream girl told me. It’s all of us our sisters and brothers and friends and lovers we’re drying up and turning colors and losing our stories and disappearing one at a time because we have come to that part of the song so I will sing Cynthia and the song will swell one instrument at a time, our voices mingling into a wind that is she and he and you and me that just keeps singing as we …,

Denise Ramnarine (artist, Montgomery, AL)

What’s at the top of my mind is constantly shifting, mostly determined by immediate external events. As I write this, various thoughts surface for oxygen at the top of my mind, like whether or not my son has Hyperlexia (maybe), or the many things I have to do before our upcoming move. However, one thing in particular has been constant lately and it is my worry for my parents and family in Trinidad. The borders of Trinidad and Tobago have been closed for more than a year now due to COVID-19 and I worry about my aging parents and family who live there. I am afraid that something may happen and I would not be able to enter the country to see them or be there for them. People have had to say final goodbyes to their dearest ones via zoom; it’s heartbreaking to say the least.

What is at the bottom of my heart — A need for home, relationship and roots! As a first generation American I yearn for a feeling of belonging, to feel natural in my adopted country. As it turns out this is a little hard to achieve when you’re a military spouse and move every three years or so. So I dream of a forever home where I can paint walls that I don’t have to eventually repaint white, or plant a tree and watch it grow, or have an art studio that I never have to pack up! I long for my son and l to make friends who would become like family because you never have to say goodbye. This is especially important to me because my son is an only child and I would love for him to develop lasting friendships with people he can count on. I carry around this hope for my son like a fervent prayer at the bottom of my heart.

3. What color is that wall; what kind of tree is it (tricky, given that you might move); what is the first thing you bring to that empty studio?

I’ve always wanted a yellow kitchen. A beautiful sunshine yellow!

What kind of tree? Our forever home will be in Florida and I’m going to try my hardest to grow a mango tree. What is the first thing I bring in my empty studio? Strangely enough I see myself bringing in my easel and when I get my forever studio, I’ll remember this and bring my easel in first — a self-fulfilling prophecy!

Rev. Lanny Wheeler (The Wheeler Brothers’ father, Lubbock, TX)

1. What is at the top of your mind?  

Actually this is corrupting two metaphors, i.e.  That’s water under the dam. Anyway, I will respond to what I think you mean.  “What is my priority?”

Getting my wife healed and whole from a total knee replacement.

2. What is at the bottom of your heart?  

Perhaps “what is my cradle to grave most sincere and deeply held belief?”

My devotion to the search for the truth about what is means to be human.

3. Corruption came easy — we started out in garden variety transgression, it was only natural, but then we didn’t notice how the passage of time tends to turn things upside down. You can’t grow in darkness unless you’re a mushroom, but we’re trying to get our hands on the right end of the shovel. Is it possible that all these billions of subjectivities are here to smooth each other a bit, by way of friction, toward some end we can barely comprehend?       

Interesting question.  It seems to me that it is asking if our lives can improve or are we stuck in the mud. Is there a way out of the mud for the human animal or will our struggle get us in deeper and deeper? Perhaps it is best to just surrender to being stuck and realize that it is our human condition. In other words, I have the desire to be better, but all I get is conflict. 

  • Conflict between my happiness (money and ownership) at the expense of someone else’s poverty. 
  • Conflict in my team won and yours lost.
  • Conflict in being driven to optimize my place in the pecking order and having absolutely no way up. There is only sameness or down.
  • Conflict in religion yelling at me about 7 deadly sins and everyone and everything around me yelling at me to be happy – accumulate more.
  • Conflict that is inside of me between my personal interests and the interests of my tribe.

This is the human condition, and no number of subjectivities will change it.  It is what it is. It has been so since the beginning of time. It is the whole point of the Adam and Eve story. It is easy to take a bite from the apple and never look back.

I have struggled my entire life with getting my hands on the correct end of the shovel. I have never reached that lofty goal. 

So why? What is the point of continuing the struggle?  Maybe there is no point. It is our human condition to know what a shovel is and how to use it, but never quite able to get it upright. If that is how it is, and I believe that is exactly how it is, then conflict will not smooth us out. Conflict is our destiny so we must learn how to live with it. Therefore, there will be no utopian end. Only death.

Tim Wheeler (musician, Silt, CO)

1. What is at the top of my mind? 
Curiosity. My endless curiosity keeps me in a constant state of exploring and learning. Without it, I would have too much time to contemplate existentialism and fall into despair.

2. What is in the bottom of my heart? 
Compassion. I feel others’ pain to the point of it breaking my heart. I stay “well” by helping others to “get well.”

3. Is there anything you’d like to say about your upcoming move to Glenwood Springs and what you’ll be up to there?
Sometimes in life “things find us” instead of “us finding them.” Glenwood Springs has so much in common with my last place of employment, they even share the same name, Hope Center. I will be continuing my work with Special Needs/At-Risk Youth and their families. I will be the Primary Therapist for a small school with Students who are all having extreme Mental Health issues. Many people give me accolades for “being willing to help the people I help.” That is not the case at all. My clients are helping me more than they will ever know. Before becoming a Counselor, I felt adrift, not attached to Anything, and overwhelmed by Everything. Once I found an occupation where all I do is help people on a very deep and personal level, my life became manageable. I have purpose and meaning. I have to be nice to myself and take care of myself if I want to be able to help others. This gave me the motivation I needed at a moment in life where I needed it most. I had been reaching out to the Heavens for a few decades, and I am now feeling the sunshine of lasting and real change, for me and my clients.


Coming up in Part Three, appearing in Glasstire on Saturday, July 24: Jennifer Hope Davy, Joey Fauerso, Heyd Fontenot, Renee Garvens, Mark Hogensen, Julia Landois, Jayne Lawrence, Leigh Anne Lester, Korby Lenker, David Longoria, Scott Martin, John Mata, Michele Monseau, Gurf Morlix, Justin Parr, Joe Reyes, Erik Sanden, Chris Sauter, Courtney Wynn Sheets, Bryan Wheeler, and Jackie Wheeler.

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