Lyrical, mysterious and genuinely weird, Laurel Lazarus is an offbeat oracle from Kansas City’s wild urban woodlands, a voice brought to us by the incomparable Mollie Duvall , whose writing you can read at Toxic Emporium.
Last week, Mollie visited the Kawsmouth studios to record two Laurel Lazarus classics: The text fugue “Nonsense,” a 77-second firecracker recited from memory, and the poem/essay “City,” a new text of which is presented here for the first time.
“Nonsense,” written and recorded by Laurel Lazarus / Mollie Duvall
“City,” written and recorded by Laurel Lazarus / Mollie Duvall
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“Here we go mistaking clouds for mountains, oh
Here’s the thing that brings the sparrows to the fountains, oh”
— Andrew Bird, “Danse Caribe”
I’ve been fired from more jobs than I’ve had, and of the jobs I’ve actually had, I’d say I worked diligently … to an extent.
Last summer was the Kansas City Zoo. Hot weather and animals and pushy people with strollers. Some families of lower income would spend every weekend, an entire day at the zoo. This reminds me of my best friend growing up, her mom would get a pool pass and they damn near used every inch of that pass. When I eat a meal, mostly I finish every bit, is this not what we should teach our youth, and our youth’s youth? To reap what you sow. Something along those lines … is it safe out there, and are the clouds dark in the winter for you, too? They clouds are darker in the winter and the skies usually grey and trees leafless, less chirping and less color. It’s what some may refer to as seasonal affective disorder … I call it normality. Don’t let them tell you what you already know and don’t let them put a title on your soul because in the end of the present only you will only know … and realize a true humanity and sustainability. Every woman for herself, in the hands of all the rest. It was a woman and child first, and from that we’ve grown into silly man-strual thoughts about power hungry control and what we can and can’t accomplish. This is not feminism; it is reality.
I’m tired of the labels we receive, us true believers and humanistic tendency-re air lee all it tees. Once you put a stamp of “hippie,” is that the one who can shake her hips without care? … is that the one who lets down her hair? … is that one of riding the free storm … strangers in the night … exchanging glances, passers by fright? Are these the ones who feel and care? A label only goes as far as the label maker continues to mass produce its title … of the entitled. Before that you were a “scenester,” and what is that even? One who is a part of a scene and a movement … but aren’t we all a part of it? I’ve never understood … and that scenester, are you a part of the Lee’s Summit chaos, the Independence, the Blue Springs, or the K C M O? Is that North Kansas City … North of the polluted infested waters once serving a purpose now serving no more than as a toxic, troubled dumping grounds … of un-purity and remiss. Are you a part of the Brooksiders … the rich kids, the ones with wealth and ideas … whose parents could afford the finer things in life … now you are all dirtier than the rest … yet held at higher esteem. Rockhurst … and televangelists … Were you found in Waldo? And when I ask the others … they ask, “Where is Waldo?” Red and white stripes … green dreams and I spy everything now and then. Children’s dreams and teen zines … telling awful stories of un-truth and un-just. It’s not the media … it’s humanity. When humanity reveals honesty, then so will … “hop on the band-wagon, everybody is doing it.”
Wait … so you are a part of the West Bottom scene … the bottom feeders feeding at bay. Or do you find freedom at Missy B’s and strippers’ poles, cocaine-infused bathrooms, all sharing and all caring. Two story fancy free solid block of history. Drag shows and dancing queens … and kings and princesses and beauty. Here is where you find admission and revisions … changing ways and making it all okay. And in the Bottoms scene … is there even one? Do the train free riders rebel … do they succeed … is it these ones and beings that make the rest of us free … do they see the future … as it should be just so … do they know … and will they go … wait a tick.
Do you fit in in the Plaza? Sure as hell … can you purchase freedom on the racks at Armani … can you tell the time with your watch … or do you use your iPhone … iMap … and app app app … do you park your car yourself? Or do you let the boys take it around the corner to help. Do you swim in the fountains … a city full … do you drink like fish and arrive home at half past … tenures your grandfather’s soul. Bristol Grill … and moonshine quills … extravagant lavish the rich and the … whore. Do you eat cheesecake … do you pay full price … do you let the men on the corners eat the rest of what’s nice? Do you like the new H&M, do you like its style? Or do you simply realize it was worth the trial … do you see how we are, do you understand … do you look to the men … on the corners … would you hold their hands? You like to drive fast and you like it reckless, you like watching stars at night you’d rather play chest-less … Have you indulged in the finer … and drank his wine … broke the bread arrived here on time? Soothing lettuce wraps and Americanos … fondue pots melting and 20-story condos … these don’t exist … yet and they do … what about the cows … and pastures … and what about that damn zoo?
Are we not the animals … are we not to be let free or do we practice conservation and attempt to remedy … our choices our mistakes our passions and demise … our true colors our acceptance our children and our lies … Do you apply to any of the above … maybe then you can check the box at the bottom that reads … less the rest and mess my friend dances like a dove. Can you get in for free … can you take a picture … in the gallery in the show … in the streets and in my home? Is this primal is this pure is this Kansas City … is it Kansas? I’m not too sure. Are you scared … are you fearless are you weary … are you here?
So you drive under Grandview Triangles … Illuminati and crashed red cars … do you climb on top of polluted hills of garbage … do you triple when seen unheard and in frills? Do you belong in the river obscene and least resting … and at a market filled with past tense crime and murder … killing sprees … the brothels … the booze … the jazz … the screams … the majick … the whiskey … the snakes … and red shoes? Have you visited Straud’s … have you taken the bite … have you sailed in lakes and ponds … Loose Park at night? The women and children, the suspects the laws … the nightclubs the poor house next door pitbull claws … do you speak freely? Do you live in fear? Have you driven outside your town or do you even care?
The bridges they burn and into casinos … they put us along the river … don’t you hear … no, you belong here … and you over there … please refrain from all verbal contact and please don’t comb your hair. And you … your pride … is it all along Troost? Do you walk the streets at night … looking to boost? Your property, not mine … or was it before … I’ve lost track of where this is going … so let’s sail to another shore.
Have you lived in the suburbs … or do you see them as something else? Do you joke and talk amongst your friends about being raised in hell … was that in the ghetto or was that in the sea … do you climb rooftops of John Knox Pavilion … with me? Was life a long one or was it simple? Were you able to realize what the kids at school were doing or did it hurt so … did they mock did they laugh did they make you cry? Was it painful was it awful … did you feel the fate of burden and brime. On time … not so … check your watch and let’s go.
To country towns of nothing less … of cowboys and prairie dress … of landmines and caves of holes in the wall … of do drop inns wedding bells and piano man’s souls. Dartboards and coves. Iris and a rose … dove tails western sails … fountain towns and homeward bounds. These are all not real … and they just won’t do … is the actual part of the story a message for you? But what does it say and how do I know … how do you learn to read and how does the book read what you blow? So breathe now … and we’ll rehearse … and long endless thirst to quench in outburst.
Do you know about hills and the tallest of them … do you know the true history of the town you’re living in? Have you thought … have you thought it through … do you wonder what’s next do you ever wonder what you’ll do? With the ability and the pride, with the understated, with no ride … with the message, with the notion with Walt Disney … with his potion. Will you see a temple … will you travel afar … will you watch carefully and will you listen hard? Between rivers … the two … do you know who sits at the top of these rattling few? From the Missouri … into the Mississippi … therein lies a mount … and in or upon it rests a town built to astound. From this town … it has much work … yet stories to be told of Unity Churches built … in this soil and in this sand … the rocks of a crevice lay in our hands … is it not our duty … nor is it mine … it’s the belief in it all and the feeling of reprimand.
So I’ll give it away, like I always have. It’s all free anyway and to me everything should be … these things we hold so tightly, they aren’t meant to be held alone … they are to be held by the rest so we can breathe all of it and redeem our sanity … into a mystic haze that’s purple and dreamy. Are we not the same breed?
Impromptu and improvisation … this is the true meaning of what we have all been searching. It is the instant … the moment, no second to look back … that feeling in your gut, that idea … that’s left for us. Do you think it through, or do you react? Do you let time pass or do you give a second chance … Jesse James … and Cole Younger … the outlaws the brave the patriots … I told her. The heartland, the free … this is our time … and what you take away … it surely is not mine.