love, Janis

Yesterday marked the anniversary of Janis Joplin’s death 37 years ago. I started to really feel a kinship to her in high school and moreso in college. There was and never has been anyone else like her. Since I didn’t get to post this yesterday, I drove home from Han’s gig in Carlsbad blasting tracks from “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again, Mama,” an album that I love.

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And in playing these tracks, a song came up that I used to have on a mix tape I’d made for myself. It’s empowering and tragic and gorgeous. It’s “Kozmic Blues” and it was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment, to remember her and to try to get a grip on my own moods and attitudes that have been extremely piss-poor lately. I’m quick to anger and slow to peace and joy. It’s affecting everything between me & Han and I want so badly to make it stop. I’m not sure how to do that. So I turned to this woman who in her angst, revelry and twisted journey has always been able to lift me up.

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I don’t know if I can explain it any better than in part of a poem I wrote several years ago about how and what she means to me. She’s shown up in various poems of mine over the years. Always reverent and still human. I’m not obsessive, but I feel like part of her is in me always. If the timing had been right, I would have believed that part of her soul had come into mine, but she died 13 months before I was born.

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Here’s to Janis, the kozmic blues and the word.

Kozmic Blues

-Janis Joplin, Gabriel Mekler

Time keeps movin’ on,
Friends they turn away.
I keep movin’ on
But I never found out why
I keep pushing so hard the dream,
I keep tryin’ to make it right
Through another lonely day, whoaa.

Dawn has come at last,
Twenty-five years, honey just in one night, oh yeah.
Well, I’m twenty-five years older now
So I know we can’t be right
And I’m no better, baby,
And I can’t help you no more
Than I did when just a girl.

Aww, but it don’t make no difference, baby, no, no,
And I know that I could always try.
It don’t make no difference, baby, yeah,
I better hold it now,
I better need it, yeah,
I better use it till the day I die.

Don’t expect any answers, dear,
For I know that they don’t come with age, no, no.
Well, ain’t never gonna love you any better, babe.
And I’m never gonna love you right,
So you’d better take it now, right now.

Oh! But it don’t make no difference, babe, hey,
And I know that I could always try.
There’s a fire inside everyone of us,
You’d better need it now,
I got to hold it, yeah,
I better use it till the day I die.

Don’t make no difference, babe, no, no, no,
And it never ever will, hey,
I wanna talk about a little bit of loving, yeah,
I got to hold it, baby,
I’m gonna need it now,
I’m gonna use it, say, aaaah,

Don’t make no difference, babe, yeah,
Ah honey, I’d hate to be the one.
I said you’re gonna live your life
And you’re gonna love your life
Or babe, someday you’re gonna have to cry.
Yes indeed, yes indeed, yes indeed,
Ah, baby, yes indeed.

I said you, you’re always gonna hurt me,
I said you’re always gonna let me down,
I said everywhere, every day, every day
And every way, every way.
Ah honey won’t you hold on to what’s gonna move.
I said it’s gonna disappear when you turn your back.
I said you know it ain’t gonna be there
When you wanna reach out and grab on.

Whoa babe,
Whoa babe,
Whoa babe,
Oh but keep truckin’ on.

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Kings & Pearls
-Lizzie Wann

Elvis died 30 years ago.
If that is indeed true
I was 5 years old
up in my neighbor’s fort,
someone came to tell me
that Elvis had died
and I remember I was sad
because I knew how much my parents liked him
and that my father had a resemblance to the king
in his own younger days.

And I mean the ’68 Elvis
before Las Vegas, before scarves and high collars,
before sightings in Louisiana diners & New York subways,
I mean the “That’s Alright, Mama” Elvis
rebel, hip-swinging, long hair,
easy smile, Priscilla-loving man.

all of this I’ve learned since he died
30 years ago
but it feels like I knew him

the way I AM Janis
walking down an L.A. street in October
after “Buried Alive” and Barney’s Beanery,
“I will not die tonight,
sidewalk’s dirty but my feet don’t care
my lips are cold from beer…”

then there’s that void
between the cigarette machine
& the hotel room where they found her

It is a void darker than desert midnight

No one knows
but me.

She wasn’t done.

Because every time I listen
there is a pure calling that I answer,
that I try everyday to understand-
the way millions flock to Graceland-
country road innocence
of hitchhiking
and ice cream cones
whiskey guilt
of trains
and midnight

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3 thoughts on “love, Janis

  1. I don’t know if I told you that one of the women in my graphics group used to go to school with Janis. I think she was a great artist. I love her singing Amazing Grace too. Awesome!
    I am glad her music inspires you.
    Too bad she took a wrong turn in life. What a loss.

  2. I was in my teens when Janis was singing her blues. I, too, loved that girl! And, like you, she lives on in me and shows up frequently. She was my role model, all except the heavy drug use.

    Thirteen months is not so unusual for one’s spirit to settle in. Who knows?

    Namaste!

    Su

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