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Noah C. Lekas: Saturday Night Sage

Noah C. Lekas – Photo Credit: Elizabeth Lekas
13 April 2019

Noah C. Lekas – Photo Credit: Elizabeth Lekas

Nomadic poet, essayist, and journalist Noah C. Lekas is set to release his first book, Saturday Night Sage, on April 13th through the Southern California label Blind Owl Records (owned by Dan Cervantes of Howlin’ Rain). Lekas’ debut literary release of poetry and narrative prose is an absorbing and transporting exploration of mysticism and menial labor in contemporary America.

Lekas’ life is inextricably entwined with music and literature. He’s equally blown away by The Exterminator by William Burroughs and Hot Water Music by Charles Bukowski, yet he arrived at those tomes through his passion for music. Listening to “The “Priest” They Called Him”, a collaboration between William Burroughs and Kurt Cobain, and “Hank” by Hot Water Music led to Lekas’ enlightenment. Lekas has been in various bands, although he admits, “I don’t play as much as I once did, but I still play a bit. On occasion I play guitar with some friends of mine in San Diego called The Silent Comedy.”

After calling all four corners of the country home, Lekas’ work is as uniquely American as his perspective. Saturday Night Sage gives voice to an often overlooked and undervalued, working-class experience. Through the book, Lekas weaves the unwavering ethos of post-industrial Wisconsin (where he was born and raised) with the poetic tradition of New York City and the eccentric rock ‘n’ roll soul of San Francisco.

Saturday Night Sage is about a blue-collar mystic looking for God and his place in modern culture. Navigating whiskey-soaked revelations with religion, folklore, and dwindling opportunity, the spiritual journeyman at the book’s center wades through Eastern philosophy, Western theology, and the American highways and factories of the Midwest in search of resolve.

Lekas elucidates, “I’ve had a lot of jobs, from day laborer and factory worker to staff writer and lecturer. A lot of those experiences are in the book but it isn’t a memoir. “Saturday Night Sage” is the narrator. Ultimately it is his story that is being told. All of my jobs and experiences in different parts of the country are woven into the book. For example, “Commuter Train” pulls from my actual experience working as an art handler in NYC and an appliance delivery man in Montana. “Minimum Wage Mantra” is about a guy that I worked with in the Midwest that cut his arm open on a press. The foreman at the factory told him that he had to pass a drug test before he could get medical assistance. He wrapped his arm up in a shirt and kept working. For every job, there is a story like that.”

More than just bar room tales of dissipation and dispossession, Saturday Night Sage, as Lekas puts it, “…is [about] the collective experience of one modern-day worker. In this world, the spiritual is practical, and the practical is spiritual. Menial tasks are mystical, and mysticism is menial. His spirituality requires labor and his labor affords him mystic experience. Devotion and a blue-collar work ethic are the virtuous keys to his enlightenment.”

Saturday Night Sage comes out on Record Store Day online and in select stores. It’s currently available for pre-order at Blind Owl Records

Legendary poster and album work artist Alan Forbes (Faith No More, Queens of the Stone Age, The Melvins, Mudhoney) did the book’s cover art. The book has inspired a number of musicians and filmmakers to donate their time and talent to create short films based on the pieces. Lekas reveals, Jeremiah Zimmerman and Joshua Zimmerman from the Silent Comedy both contributed films. Scott Rosenbaum who did Sidemen: The Long Road to Glory did a film, and so did my wife Elizabeth Lekas. There are two more coming, one from Shelby Baldock who did a lot of the North Mississippi Allstars’ music videos, and one from The Joelsons, a great filmmaking couple in San Diego.”

The Big Takeover has the pleasure of hosting the premiere of one of these videos for the poem “Steamroll the Sky”.

Lekas recounts that, ““Steamroll the Sky” was inspired by a painting called Second Nature no 8 by New York artist Donald Groscost. When he was working on the Second Nature series we were having a lot of creative discussions and he sent me a few pictures of the work as he painted. That piece inspired “Steamroll the Sky”, pulling to mind an experience I had in Wisconsin, sort of on the outskirts watching people react to a torrential storm. Ultimately, “Steamroll the Sky” is about the Sage observing a cataclysmic event that nobody else can be bothered to notice.”

The film for “Steamroll the Sky”was directed by musician and filmmaker Joshua Zimmerman (Silent Comedy), stars Jonathon Linaberry (The Bones of JR Jones), and features music by Ben Ambrosini (Taken by Canadians) and Chad Lee (Silent Comedy).

The video execution of this piece by Zimmerman was meant to be largely improvisational. There was a general concept of some key moments that needed to be captured, but by and large, the troupe wandered through New York City and shot a ton of material that was not used. To represent the city in all its glory and grit, the shots are intentionally imperfect, rough around the edges, and just a little grimy.

Steamroll The Sky from Josh Z. on Vimeo.

Steamroll the Sky

By Noah C. Lekas

The clouds steamrolled across the sky
on cataclysmic axis points,
on pessimistic fractious joints
& nobody looked up.
I mean nobody.
& Main St. convulsed
with chattering piles of public commotion,
it pulsed with the flattening sound
of a catatonic ocean,
& nobody looked.
I mean no-body.
The meter cops kept right on
checking their meters,
the traffic cops
kept right on
checking their traffic.
The clouds steamrolled through the sky
& fell into the cracks of the street,
& the starry blistering sunset
melted into inconsiderate oblivion.
Rude, it rolled
right through the damn sun
& nobody looked up.
Tarry the ropes & draw the sails
I hollered in my best boatman’s call.
Then I ducked in through a tavern door
just a block off Main St.
I dumped my jacket in
the first empty booth
& bummed a smoke.
The window seat was open,
so I leaned in & disappeared
into the shadow of the low hanging light.
The sky exploded with rain
like God was pissing it all
down the drain.
I pressed my forehead
against the window frame.
I peeled my eye lids back
& watched the rain.
I was just about knocked out,
black-out scared,
when 6-88 Glide started
boogying through my head.
The tavern jukebox was buried
in the back by the bathroom
& the barkeep tapped along,
bouncing between
the kick drum & the snare drum
with a coaster in each hand,
sort of taking turns
on which was which.
Impatient as New York City
he beat it out on the bar top.
I peeled my forehead back off the window frame & ordered a drink.
I reeled in the horrid black
of the window pane,
& started to think.
While the water kept rising
& the whiskey sank.
While the slaughterhouse
sang & the busboy drank.
“Some storm this time,”
bellowed out from the end of the bar.
“Goddamned nightmare,”
another returned fire.
The bar was lined
with gravel faced workers.
The bar was divided by
unraveled drug pushers.
The clouds steamrolled the sky
& only the drunks watched,
through the bottom of their glasses
in the swollen humidity of their shoes.
The clouds steamrolled the sky
& only the drunks watched,
through the bottom of their glasses
detonating in the sullen divinity of the blues.