Music! Me and Russ Pollock and Michael Temperio will be back at Sophie’s Cuppa Tea on Saturday 12/3, 10 a.m. to noon. There’s no cover, but you should really treat yourself to a luxe cup of tea.



I’ve been looking at this photo of my friend Jane Hilton for days. It was taken the day I knew she was one of my soulmates. How lucky is that, that I happened to have a camera? It wasn’t the day we met. A couple of weeks had already gone by. We were playing music at a retirement home. A roomful of ancient Italian ladies – this was in Italy – were sitting in plastic chairs, bobbing along way behind the beat, smiling like mustachioed angels. I sang She Moved Through The Fair, an Irish song about a free-spirited girl who gets sick and dies before she can get married. And Jane played a set of Irish fiddle tunes, of which I wish I could remember more than The Geese in the Bog. We were at a summer festival, and being serious classical music students, we weren’t looking beyond the next tricky madrigral or early-morning language lesson, or I wasn’t. But then the Casa de Reposo gig came up, and they didn’t have a piano, so I sang the only thing I knew how to sing a cappella. There was a mutual surprise moment of “YOU like Irish music?” And then we were inseparable, for the rest of the summer, for the rest of her life.

That was sixteen years ago. I remember visiting Arizona for the first time the following summer, me freezing in San Francisco, her telling me gently that July was maybe not the best time to come to Tempe. She took me to a Clare Voyants show and hauled me on a hundred-degree hike in Red Rocks and every man she introduced me to was in love with her (also, no doubt, many of the women). Her great friend Billy Brett, who played in the band, came back to her place with us that weekend because he was too drunk to drive. He showed me the tiny photo of Jane he had glued to the neck of his mandolin. Which should have been a clue that no one could cross her path without loving her.

All those years of letters and emails and texts and visits and calls — until it physically hurt too much for her to talk — Jane was at my shoulder. I don’t make friends easily. It takes a lot for me to trust someone. But when I finally do, I give them my whole heart, and I expect a ridiculous, unrealistic volume of commitment in return. It’s a bad habit. It leads to heartbreak almost all the time. But it never did with Jane. I don’t know if she ever knew that, that there weren’t many like her, who had the whole unmasked quivering mass of my trust in their hands. I don’t know if she knew how rare that was, or how gently, ferociously, unwaveringly she held it.

I have lost loved ones before. But this is a new kind of loneliness.

She was the friend I could sit up all night and talk about God with, and spend all the next day playing music, and cooking, and reveling in nature. She spurred me to take chances as an artist, always telling me to listen to my gut and not to the louder voice that insisted I was a talentless toad and no one should ever have to hear me sing. She was fearless as a musician, and even though we had heart-to-hearts where she revealed that she secretly doubted her skills, she never let it show when it was time to shine, or to stand up there with other musicians and help them shine.

She took my by surprise at my wedding, and not only with the sweet, jaunty wedding march she wrote for Nadja and me. While I was getting dressed she handed me her bracelet to wear. It was my something borrowed, green and gold to match my dress. I started crying and blurted out “I’m so glad it’s you!” – which meant (for reasons that belong in another post) we were both aware that I didn’t have any relatives there that day. No one to help me get ready or walk me down the aisle. She knew she was my family.

This past January, after a glorious few days of playing music and hiking together over New Year’s, we saw Jane off in the parking lot at KBAQ in Phoenix on a rare cloudy day. She was wearing a yellow vintage skirt and high boots and her walk was full of that cheerful bounce she had when she was doing something she loved to do. She promised to come visit us in California as soon as she could.

But then the sickness descended again, and the texts full of furious, insistent hope that she would be well again turned into descriptions of rough nights of pain and nausea, and then she was just asking for all of our prayers. Every person. Every prayer.

People sing She Moved Through the Fair different ways, as with most folk songs. But the way I learned it, this is how it ends:

My love she passed by me
With her goods and her gear
And that was the last I ever saw of my dear.


More news about shows! There’s a launch party for my new book and a night of Wilson Wong. Both at the Octopus Literary Salon.

Tuesday 11/1, 7 p.m.
Book Launch: The Songbird Thief
The Octopus Literary Salon
With readers Skye Allen (that’s me!), Arisa White, and Andrew Demcak. Music by Steve Luntz.
No cover

Friday 11/4, 9:30 p.m.
Wilson Wong
With a pile of opening acts including me and some others who may not be confirmed just yet
The Octopus Literary Salon

And in case you missed it, Leonard Cohen went all hobbit on his 82nd birthday and gave us a new song. I am not looking forward to the day when even more of my inspirations migrate to that David Bowie show in the sky, but … 82. Sharing so I can always find it again.

I have shows! I’ve been too busy doing all the things you do in August when you’re “not so busy” to tell you about shows! Also, I wrote a book. More about that later.

Shows coming up:

Saturday 9/10, 10 a.m. – noon
Sophie’s Cuppa Tea

Friday 9/30, 7:30 p.m.
Irish Night at the Black Pug Cafe
opening for Michael Mullen’s Trio of One

Sunday 10/2, 11 a.m.
Harding Carnival

Saturday 10/15, 8 p.m.
Litcrawl at Litquake
Venue: Borderlands Books
(This one is a reading, no music, or none by me anyway.)

It’s time for me to host your open mic again! Come this Thursday and give us a thrill. There’s usually time for 2 or 3 songs each.

Open Mic
Thursday, August 18, 7-9:30 ~ signup is at 7
Black Pug Cafe & Roastery
1303 High Street, Alameda 94501
No cover

Georgia Sam put together this benefit at the Fireside Lounge for the Orlando shooting victims. I’ll be on the stage and so will lots of great local music acts. Proceeds will benefit the National Compassion Fund.


Graham Hill and I are playing on Saturday, June 18 at the Black Pug Cafe. Bonus: Ran Bush will join us on bass for this show. MJ Lee will also play a set of original songs, hopefully featuring some from her soon-to-be-released album. Music from 7-9:30 pm, $5-10 sliding scale.



Me and Russ will be back at Sophie’s Cuppa Tea to sing songs in the Americana and British folk revival vein this Saturday 6/4, 10 a.m. to noon. For free! Buy yourself a fancy cup of Chinese tea though. They’re experts.


Music things are happening!

Sunday, May 29
BayCon, San Mateo

I’m singing a handful of bluegrass songs with Mike Lieberman on guitar and mandolin at 4:00 on the music stage.

For you con folk: I’ll also be on the “Facing the Darkness” panel at 1:00, under my pen name, Skye Allen. The panel is moderated by Maria Nieto; Bret Sweet is also a panelist. The description is:  “The space to deal with hard subjects (ex. human trafficking, abuse, injustice, war) using fiction/science/dark humor.” The con organizers included a trigger warning: ***This panel may not be suitable for children or sensitive persons. Strong triggers may be present. Please exercise your judgement in attending. There may be moments that are intense and graphic.*** Come chat with us about our books and the difficult topics that matter to us if it feels right.

Saturday, June 4
Sophie’s Cuppa Tea, Oakland, 10 a.m. to noon

Russ Pollock and I will sing Celtic and Americana songs and duets, with Russ on more than one kind of guitar! Possible mandolin bonus if we’re lucky. No cover.

Thursday, June 9
Black Pug Café Open Mic, Alameda, 7-9:30 p.m.

I’m the 2nd Thursday host of this Alameda open mic at the venue we used to know as the High Street Station Café. We on the local scene are doing all we can to make sure this friendly and supportive open mic keeps thriving under new management. No cover, food and drink for sale, and bonus, they have a piano.

And one sad music thing. We lost Guy Clark this week. This is him with one of my favorite singers, Karen Matheson, showing us how to manage the distance between that far country and this one.

X-posting from my other site,, since this touches on music.


Lately I had the supreme good luck to have a poem accepted in the brand-new publication Atmospheric River. It’ll be published with my real name, Skye Alexander (Skye Allen is my fiction pen name). The editors needed an artist statement. I’d never written one of those before.

I found this handy post, “The Artist Statement and Why They Mostly Suck,” at the Bmore Art blog. These instructions were vastly helpful:

“The essentials of the artist statement are as following:

1. An explanation of the materials and media – What tools do you use? Be as specific as you can.
2. An explanation of the subject matter and concepts explored – What are you communicating? Again, be specific – What sets your work apart from other work?
3. How these two aspects reinforce or contradict one another – What does your work DO?

Additional, optional aspects:
4. A short and specific personal narrative – no longer than 2 sentences
5. Historical context – explaining one or two influences on the work and placing it into an art historical continuum
6. NOTHING ELSE – save your feelings for your diary

Other suggestions:
1. Do a studio visit with a colleague, artist, or critic and have them answer questions 1-5 for you and take notes. Let someone more objective than you put your visual work into words.
2. Read artist statements by artists who do work similar to yours. If they did a good job, write something similar.”

The poem that will be in Atmospheric River is a sonnet, strict syllable and line count and everything, and it’s about taking voice lessons with Laurie Lewis at the Freight and Salvage. Here’s the artist statement I eventually came up with:

“This is one of a group of sonnets I wrote on slow days at a past job, all centered on the theme of limitation. I was taking singing lessons from a well-known bluegrass musician at the time — the singer in the poem — and exploring a classical poetry form helped me reconcile the need to sing with the strict traditions of an unfamiliar genre and with that day-job despair so many artists have in common.”