A Poet's Notebook


Evora (the story)

For once I should have listened to Zarathustra, Johnny 

(Jean-Claude  from Suresnes), Oceana or at least Slippers, 

fellow street musicians outside of Shakespeare & Co. in Paris. Even the Irish singer with the pregnant Dutch girlfriend--who collected for all of us on a good day--knew better. But I was barely twenty years old. Instead of searching for a discounted flight, I rode trains and buses south and soon realized that (1) Marrakech would be much farther than my hand-drawn map suggested and (2) winter was not a cooperative season in the Basque region or Spain. Portugal lay anesthetized at the edge of the world, only the wind recalling the resurrection of green in April and braying, praying for its return.

      Evora is a relatively small town which grew around a very prominent cathedral. I surveyed pillars which appeared to be Roman; they were smooth and cold to the touch and colder by the moment. The desire for warmth awakened me from the spell of history as the tepid, watery light continued to diminish. Fortunately, a guitar is a passport, and I was welcomed into a family restaurant and their evening sessions of  songs and tales. 

      Five or six days later, an overnight bus was finally announced for the Spanish border. The granddaughter who lived on the top story of the moldy stone house informed me, then invited me to follow her to the cathedral. I was led to the altar where her grandfather was kneeling. Through her translation and angular movements he requested that I help him remove a brass plate set into the marble floor.

      I knelt and examined the polished, reflecting testament. A long name, a long cross, a dash separating two years--the most succinct, evocative poem in any language. 

      Not sharing the Portuguese and Spanish enthusiasm for skeletal remains of saints, I hesitated. My companions struggled. 

I closedmy eyes and prodded and pushed with my fingertips.

      Gradually, eyes still closed, I felt a moistness, a freshness, a presence. My fingers were bathed in a green light rising as a mist from the sepulchre which held the remains or fragments of no perceptible body other than the womb of earth.

      The elder explained with foreign words and signs. The young girl translated haltingly. I began to understand that this church had been mosque and Saracen stronghold in the time of the Crusades; a church again during the epoch of Charlemagne; a temple in the time of the Romans; and the source of pure water, the source of life, the presence of the Goddess in prehistory. The water was still pure after centuries, as it had been in the beginning.

      Through Spain, bus after bus, I searched the metaphor and realized as we arrived to a trembling vista that is the sea between land, the Mediterranean, I am that church. Each of us is that church, guardian of the source for the portion of forever we call a life. 

      By the time I stepped into my first morning of Morocco, I had finished this poem and its accompanying music.


© 2009 Fammerée

Evora [poem #2]

© 2000 Fammerée



“Evora” appears in Lessons of Water & Thirst

a book of poems and a recording by Richard Fammerée.

Notre Dame (the story)

I have visited so many sacred sites, by design or fortune, that 

a singular lesson has been amplified beyond revelation to certainty: 

each of us is the innermost sanctum. One needs travel no further 

than the soul to experience the most perfectly proportioned temple 

and the most daringly elegant cathedral.


      Still, I shall relate the story of Notre Dame, a poem which has already 

surpassed me and my relatively few years walking the earth. 

      Kato Zakros is the final town at the eastern tip of Crete, an island 

of famous mythologies (Minos, the Minotaur, its labyrinth; Theseus, 

Ariadne; Zeus, Demeter, Persephone, Dionysus (prototype for God 

the Father, God the Holy Ghost, Mary and God the Son)) and mythic 

civilizations (Minoan). I had once dreamed of living among its fabled 

palm trees--the first I would have ever had seen--during my two year 

journey (which I sometimes call my third crusade) which began in 

County Kerry, Ireland, and ended in Jerusalem. Nine months into the 

adventure, that first spring, I found a garden house in Mirtos (along 

the southern coast of the island) and ventured no further east than 


      I finally visited Kato Zakros fifteen years later during my pilgrimage 

to Mirtos with Helene. We found a small room above the pebbled beach 

which looked directly across the eastern Mediterranian to Acre.

      It was in that white bed floating over the site of a vanished, vanquished Minoan Temple, the Queen’s Magaron, the wife of the Lord’s Prayer appeared to me. It began as a trickle of words in the fissures of the ancient, shadowy ceiling, and they puddled into a cloud settling upon my chest and blossoming behind my eyes.

      I rose and wrote out the Lord’s Prayer and began to construct a new 

poem--its “lost half”--alongside.

      I read the third draft to Helene. Her enthusiasm was lifeless. Well, it 

hadn’t been her idea, I suppose. And we had only recently experienced 

usettling revelations of the Roman ascendancy in Crete two thousand 

years before and dark suggestions of our unhappy--perhaps tragic--


      Nine months later, I discovered the poem folded into Anabasis 

(St. John Pearse) at the bottom of my knapsack among a clutter 

of fragments of writing and songs and addresses hurried across 

half sheets and receipts. I left it in my bag as I prepared for a 

flight to Tel Aviv.

      I arrived to Jerusalem three weeks before Passover and Easter 

and decided to begin my Peace Tour of Israel, Jordan and Egypt 

immediately to arrive back to the Holy City during holy week.

      Having crossed the Red Sea into the Egyptian Sinai after a fortnight 

of wandering Arabia enroute from Jerash and Petra to Aqaba, I 

settled thankfully into a straw hut in a Bedouin camp. A little shade 

upon the path to Mt. Sinai was a relief. There was another westerner 

living in the camp, a German woman whose intensely blond hair was 

always covered with a black scarf. A devotee of mysticism and desert 

deities, particularly fertility goddesses, this woman without child 

kept to herself. One afternoon we met in the absolute silence of the 

desert near a primitive sink. If I were composing a Bible, I would 

say that we met at a well.

      I recited the fragments of the poem I would name Notre Dame two 

weeks later in Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris enroute back to the 


      Her eyes were intense as the sky we were hiding from, her skin 

cured as a person’s twice her age.

      Hermitic--and hermetic--as she was, she encouraged me to birth 

the words to the world; and I finished the poem that night walking 

beside the gentle ripple of the Red Sea, revising aloud with each 

step. It was a full moon, and I recited into its eyes and purity. 

Distant fires in the desert, I later learned, were Israeli families 

singing and feasting, for it was also the eve of Passover.

      I recited Notre Dame into Mount Sinai. I said to Jehovah, “If this 

poem displeases you, I stand here naked in the place where two 

apostates (with rather complicated, forgettable names) were 

devoured by the earth--”

      The night remained still, benevolent.

      I recited the poem again a few days later on Easter Sunday in Jerusalem at Christ Church.

      And again months later at the invitation of His Holiness the Dalai 

Lama during the World Festival of Sacred Music. I had just returned 

from the island of Kauai where the musichad been born as Aphrodite 

from the sea. 

© 2009 Fammerée


Notre Dame [poem #4]

© 2000 Fammerée

“Notre Dame” appears on Lessons of Water & Thirst

a recording by Richard Fammerée.

One Life (the story) 

I consider many of my songs and poems compositions of personal healing, not necessarily intended for recording or distribution. And there appears to be a lesson in this, for these somehow reach the larger world, and two, in particular, have outdistanced their composer: “Notre Dame” (popularly known as “Blue & Green”) and “One Life” (recently covered by Toni Childs: www.myspace.com/thetonichilds). 


       “One Life” was born in Chicago in a desire for recalibration. It had been a particularly urban winter: ice, insensitive, concrete, insensitive, February, insensitive (even if a red heart is pasted annually upon its breast). 

      Returning from a slim solace and chaleur of Belize in the final days of winter in March, I began performing in and around Wicker Park where I had been raised. One venue lead to another: Hot House, Chopin Theatre, Subterranean, Uncommon Ground, finally the Art Institute. A member of the Dave Matthews team began courting my band during our recording sessions at Alien Sound. Our female vocalist was invited to join DM on the road and there was talk of us opening for them in an outdoor summer venue. 

      Spirits were high and expectations grew higher. And, of course, the dramatics inherent in the soaring of the ego increased, as well. 

      One afternoon I found myself in very quiet room looking into the vast green skirt of a quiet oak filling the window. As if scoring an inner film of me again in green again, a song emerged which I continued to write and sing whenever the insanity of a fast urban life began to overwhelm its shiny tinsel benefits. 

       “One Life” would return me to the island of Kaua’i, to my favorite camping site between great trees along Anini Beach where the song had certainly been sown. 

      Predictions of hipster rhythm sections, however, can often be counter-intuitive and unsettling. John and Hamid had almost convinced me not to leave Chicago. 

      “Think about what you’re doing--and the consequences.” 

      “I’ll only be gone two or three weeks--” 

      “Still, . . . “ each nodded. 

      Helene cast Tarot. She concured wanly, warily. 

      I always try to choose faith not fear--and, soon, I was reclining on the lanai (wrap-around porch) of Eddy Free and Laura Love’s tree house. I felt safe enough to share my new song. Eddy tumbled from his hammock and returned with a twelve string. 

      Laura nodded. We sipped our icy, lavender, tropical smoothies. I was just happy to be singing my freshest lyrics to the hungry jungle and dream-distant sea--and dear spiritual siblings sittiing close. 

      That final summer month just prior to 9/11 was a relaxed and happy time for our circle in Kaua’i. Every weekend featured a vivid house party celebrating the miracle of life--and finding ourselves in paradise--with organic, orgasmic food, music and fire dancing. There are moments I replay as if from a film. In one, I am sitting at dusk on the lowered gate of a flat bed pickup up in the hill country of the island, an area called “little Ireland.” I am surrounded by fire dancers and cartoon-tattooed drummers, and we are surrounded by the gathering dark  jungle. I am playing my guitar wildly.

      In another, I am playing my guitar generously, then intimately, sipping wine, smiling languidly, laughing and listening, listening more closely to the woman sitting cross-legged on the floor beside me. Her voice fills the room and gracefully diverts every conversation. We are surprised at our ability to create songs together effortlessly, and she encourages this. Her name is Toni. She is the woman I have seen riding a palomino down the valley when I study the sea at dawn from Heather’s lanai. In rainy moments, I have watched her from the window of the spare bedroom where my guitar and knapsack attend me.      

      Eddy joins us, resting his hand along the waste of his unvarnished Guild. “Are we in tune?”

      We are, surprisingly, in that humidity. At least to each other.

      “Play that new song--the tree song--everything is all one life--”

      “Maybe later--”

      Toni turns to me. Her eyes have changed. Her face has changed. “There is no later. Only now.” 

       I fold over my guitar, actually Heather’s guitar, and sing.

      “You wrote that?” she asks as if surprised by a bouquet of local wine. “The words and music?”

      Yes and yes.

      One year later Toni Childs was awarded an Emmy for a song featured in a documentary by Eve Ensler, creator of The Vagina Monologues. The following spring I was writing yet another lyrical poem in a red barn in a forgotten (purposely) corner of the Midwest when an unlisted number appeared on the small window of my cell phone.

      Flaubert, my cat who was supposed to be busy decreasing the rodent population, glared at me until I finally answered.

      “Hello, Richard? This is Toni.”

      “Hey, Toni. How are you?”

      “Very good actually. Listen, I’d like to cover that song you sang that night at the party--”

      “ ‘One Life?’ ”

      “That’s it. The tree song.”

      Arrangements were made for me to return to Kaua’i. Toni introduced me to her British producer David Tickle. We recorded “One Life” and it appears on her new record Keep the Faith [www.myspace.com/thetonichilds].   

      David and I continued to work together for the next two and a half years. He produced another thirty of my songs for various projects.

© 2009 Fammerée

Please contact the artist directly to purchase autographed and 
numbered copies of limited editions of books and recordings: fammeree@att.net

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