Monday, August 29, 2011

Carlisle Indian

     He ran so fast no one ever saw him again
    They taught him to speak
    You are the greatest athlete in the world, 
            proclaimed the king
    Thanks, king, said he
    But Jim Thorpe don’t play here no more
    He couldn’t hit the breaking pitch, and
    He piled his Pierce Arrow into the ditch,
    Out where the Wal-mart used to be,
    And Jim Thorpe don’t play here no more
    No, and Jim Thorpe don’t drink here no more
    Someone said they saw him standing 
            in front of the cigar store
    But Jim Thorpe don’t play here no more
    No, and Jim Thorpe don’t drink here no more
    Jim Thorpe don’t drink here no more
    



Hey, Jim, where did all the Indians go?
Maybe to the Carlisle Indian School, I guess, I don’t know
Hey, Jim, where did all the buffalo go?    
Maybe to the Carlisle Indian School, I guess, I don’t know
Was that Jim Thorpe I saw out in front of the cigar store? 
No, no, Jim Thorpe don’t play here no more 
Jim Thorpe don’t drink here no more 
Well, we need a starter, tonight’s a big game 
And Chief Bender is in the Hall of Fame 
But Jim Thorpe don’t play here no more 
Jim Thorpe don’t drink here no more  
No more, no more, no more . . . 
How can you read the defense 
When there is no defense 
The rattling of the bones 
The rattling of the bones
 
They say the Indians will soon be gone 
That the red man is vanishing from this land 
The old ones say only the sky lives forever 
And I say the stars will always remember the way I ran
 
Look, a deer don’t say 
Today I’m going to run pretty 
It just runs 
And a horse doesn’t say 
Watch me run pretty 
It just runs 
And the wolf don’t say 
Today I’m going to hunt pretty 
It just hunts 
And the moon don’t say 
Tonight watch me shine so pretty 
It just shines
 
Kill the Indian, save the man . . . 
Kill the Indian, save the man  {chant throughout}

Grafton


If ever I make it back to Grafton
I’m going to write the definition 
        of loneliness
If ever I make it back to Grafton
I’m going to write the definition 
        of loneliness
 

Sliver of a moon, almost a frost
Everything you do, you have to 
        pay the cost
Sliver of a moon, almost a frost
Everything you want, you have to 
        pay the cost
All these faces in these cars going by
All of them look lost
   





There’s nothing more famous than 
That about which nothing is known 
There’s nothing more famous than 
That about which nothing is known 
Nothing emptier than
The room where the art was shown

     I know I been there once already 
I just can’t find it on a map 
I know I been there once already 
I just can’t find it on a map 
I heard my last kind words there 
And then something snapped
 


If ever I make it back to Grafton 
I’m going to write the definition of loneliness 
If ever I make it back to Grafton 
I’m going to write the definition of loneliness 
And then I won’t remember her at all

Ghost of a Flea


I wonder, does the water ever miss the stone
        once it’s worn away?
I doubt it, for it’s never the same water
        as it was yesterday
And does that whisper of a moon
        ever miss its better half?
Only  at night, when it remembers her laugh


Did I ask the right questions?
Did I tempt fate?
Did I find my own path to the right gate?
Did I ask the right questions?
Did I keep my head?
If it weren’t for this living, we’d be better off dead



The moon is low
I’m too high
Time to go
Don’t say goodbye
Wind on the rise
It’s getting cold
No time to die
Just getting old

Did I ask the right questions?
Did I tempt fate?
Did I find my own path to the right gate?
Did I ask the right questions?
Did I keep my head?
If it weren’t for this living, we’d be better off dead


The phantoms in your head
        Let them howl
The beasts beneath your bed
        Let them prowl
The banshees on the lawn
        Let them wail
The Vikings at their funerals
        Let them sail
The bandits in the mountains
        Let them climb
The stars in your eyes
        Let them shine
The stars in your eyes
        Let them shine
You’ll be fine, fine, fine
You’ll be fine


Did I ask the right questions?
Did I tempt fate?
Did I find my own path to the right gate?
Did I ask the right questions?
Did I keep my head?
If it weren’t for this living, we’d be better off dead

In Siam yesterday an elephant stepped on a landmine beneath a banyan tree   
This is a world of unfathomable obscenity
Sometimes I’m haunted by the ghost of a flea
I can’t ever find it, but I can feel it on me
We’re all haunted by things we can’t see
If you can, try to sleep, and to let it all be
Some of these spirits will help set you free
And not even grim death will hold the lonesome coyote


Did I ask the right questions?
Did I tempt fate?
Did I find my own path
To the right gate?
Did I ask the right questions?
Did I keep my head?
If it weren't for this living,
    we'd be better off dead

Gunboys

Tears beneath the window
More frightful than the storm
If I didn’t fear misunderstanding
You could come in and get warm

“And if this world had only one heart”
Sings the king of the bandits
“I would tear it out myself”


He quit the team for good reason
He was tired of keeping score
Of being whipped by some coach 

        who cannot play
He won’t be anymore


                                                    
“And if this world had only one heart”
Sings the king of the bandits
“I would tear it out myself”



Have you ever tried to follow a dream?
By day the way is not so clear
As it is by night when the path
To the treasure in the forest lies near

“And if this world had only one heart”
Sings the king of the bandits
“I would tear it out myself”

“You must judge us by what we are,” the minister says
“And not by what we do
Beliefs are not the same things as reasons
And we don’t have to explain either to you”

“And if this world had only one heart”
Sings the king of the bandits
“I would tear it out myself”

“I’m with the special-access program,” the ghost says
“Don’t you remember me?
Doesn’t matter if you do or not
I’m still going to set you free”

“And if this world had only one heart”
Sings the king of the bandits
"I would tear it out myself" 



“Where do you get all this change?”
The beggar replies, “From 

        all the gracious people
For the whole world is a church
For the truly needful”

“And if this world had only one heart”
Sings the king of the bandits
“I would tear it out myself”





Truth comes for some in dreams
For others in the shower
Chaos rules the world
Such are your earthly powers

“And if this world had only one heart”
Sings the king of the bandits
“I would tear it out myself”


Imagine waiting your whole life for justice
And finding heaven instead
Learning life is the only judgment
Desired by the dead

“And if this world had only one heart”
Sings the king of the bandits
“I would tear it out myself”


Here’s to all the gunboys
In all their days in the sun
May  the god they serve greet them at their death
Each and every one

“And if this world had only one heart”
Sings the king of the bandits
“I would tear it out myself”

Elegy

Is Harry Dean Stanton dead?
I don't know, I can't remember
Anyway, that's what I heard someone said
He got shot by a man with a grudge in a motel
In a warm, dry climate sometime 
            around Christmas
Or maybe it was in late September


Where is Robert Johnson's grave
And how come he ain't buried there?
When you think of all the lives he's saved
Couldn't someone have took a little more care?
Jealous lovers get to pick their poison
Hellhounds never lose a trail
Life ain't fair, and the devil plays a bone fiddle
Sometimes dyin' must feel like bustin' out of jail


David Thompson never said goodbye
Don't you wonder where he went?
The only man who could ever truly fly
The money gone, the talent spent
You pay a price to go so high
One day he just kept on going, all the way up, into the sky


I got a letter this morning
What do you think it said?
I got an e-mail this morning
How do you think it read?
It said, Better hurry, hurry
One you love is dead


There was this man I used to see
He begged coins and dollars outside the little grocery store
It was hard to really tell but he looked pretty old to me
He was weatherbeaten and a long time ago he'd stopped keeping score
Even so if you looked at him strange or didn't speak to him right
He'd want to know why you went and did that for
Sometimes he was drunk, sometimes he was crazy
I never see him anymore
And his people out there called him the Spanish nigger
Go figure


Are there ditches where you are, Billy Martin?
Do you still need a run, more middle relief
Someone to drive 
And a safe place to drink?
They all said you were a miserable son-of-a-bitch
I never did care what they think

Old Pine Box (Sorrow Song)

When I'm gone, don't you cry
Please remember me with a smile
When I'm gone, don't you ask why
I just needed to rest a while
And this old pine box
Feels just like home to me


If you saw death coming 
        down the road
Arrayed so fine
If you saw death coming
         down the road
Why then you'd have to be blind
Not to know why this old pine box
Feels just like home to me

There's a magpie on the gallows
And an emptiness on the line
She's going to get to heaven before us
Without even hardly trying
I wonder if they lay her down in the ground
In a box made out of pine

For all the poetry of the placenames on this land
There's no place left for me here where I can stand
These words you wrote I once believed
Now I think they're just practiced to deceive
And I don't know anymore what it means to be free
This old pine box feels just like home to be

If just once you saw those plastic bags at night
Blowing through the trees like haints
You'd know why it feels all right
To lie here with all the dead and the saints
Seeing things with second sight
This old pine box feels just like home to me

Yes, the ice on the trees can leave you to shiver
But the stars in the sky can make a soul quiver
If you came out here just once
Then you would see
Why this old pine box 
Feels just like home to me



Each night at twelve, Jesus 
            comes walking
Then all these last souls to him 
            come flocking
And he forgives them for dying
Three by three
This old pine box
Feels just like home to me






It's been so long now I just can't remember
What year it was death stole my child from me
And whether it was the Spanish influenza
Or just that old TB
This old pine box
Feels just like home to me

Build a cross out of sticks, plant it in the ground
Come raise it again when the cold wind blows it down
Write her name on the marker
Or carve it on a tree
This old pine box
Feels just like home to me

And the people are kindly
Kindlier than you thought they'd be
Some of them leave red roses
And some of them leave tea
Some of them leave tears
And some of them leave whiskey
This old pine box
Feels just like home to me

For you don't have to walk in 
            this lonesome graveyard
For to hear this singing
Don't have to go to church
To hear them bells a -ringin'
Don't have to ask for whom 
            they're tolling
They toll for we
This old pine box
Feels just like home to me

I don't need no more of hope
I don't need no more of glory
The nightbirds serenade me
And the wildflowers they adorn me
And there's nothing so very special
About any of this history
That's why this old pine box
Feels just like home to me 




 

A Rose in Winter

I've been looking around for grace
But all that's coming down is rain
For a minute I thought I found it
      in your face
Guess I better start again, again
Getting real tired of this chase
Just can't settle for something plain
Running around from place to place
Like a rider on a downbound train
I've always been searching above
Then it hits me from below
Always wanted something holy to love
But the body is all that we know


Sometimes I feel just like a rose in winter
Holding back the snow

 Come real close, not too near
Yeah, I want you, but I can't stay here
Time out of season, I'm the last one around
When it gets too cold, I'll go down in the ground

I'm not saying you're a saint
I've still never found one of those
It could be you're an angel
That's something only you and God would know
To me you're like the sunlight
That holds the bloom in the rose
The radiance in the garden
That holds off the wind when it blows
Cause always the seasons will change
And always the ages will roll
And always that time will come
When you have to go
Sometimes I feel just like a rose in winter
Holding back the snow


Come real close, not too near
Yeah, I want you, but I can't stay here
Time out of season, I'm the last one around
When it gets too cold, I'll go down in the ground


So what is the essence of a rose
The flower or the thorn?
What is the essence of living
The dying or the being born?
My petals might be fading
And my coat it might be torn
That doesn't mean I won't make it
To see another new morn
So you get a little older
Time to help the younger ones grow
Teach them not to be so afraid
Of the scars where they show
Sometimes I feel just like a rose in winter
Holding back the snow


Come real close, not too near
Yeah, I want you, but I can't stay here
Time out of season, I'm the last one around
When it gets too cold, I'll go down in the ground

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Relativity



Humanity's greatness is measured
By the extent of its capacity for evil
No shoah diminishes a third
The thickness of the smoke makes the cry of the horns
That much more extraordinary, as the numbers of the dead
Attest to the significance of a single word
Basin Street speaks as surely to the honor of the middle passage
As do all the unmarked graves and forgotten names
Would you not speak for me if you could?
Between famine and poetry there is so much, a world, the world
Made with so much space in which to place your belief
Wherein acts of kindness between strangers go uncharted
Yet are not lesser than that which is remembered
If god dies each time we do, how much greater is your faith
That which dies so often must be immortal; for each fire, there must be a song
I've heard the hymns of poor people, and they are beautiful
You've seen murals painted on walls, and forgiveness in the eyes of the wronged
      We are forgiven each day, this is salvation
      A tale is told of a condemned man who spent every one
      Of his last days chipping his name into stone
      With a spoon; such is our time on this earth
      Would you have stand for you that inscription
      Or the prison; I tell you that man was saved
      Brighter shine the sufferers than each honorable man in the street
A word, music, laughter, the touch of love -- you have this yet desire more?
Leave greatness for the ambitious; no bird apprehends the sky
You may have what you need; all else is theft
To a beggar, give money, not advice
To the tired, a bed
To the sad, a smile
To the lonesome, a friend
To Hamlet, sympathy
To the sleepless, a blanket
To children, devotion
Would you ask for more: You are more deserving than the others
Do only that workd for which you would ask no recompense
Anything to which a price is attached is defiled
Defend your own, and leave others to do the same
Without giving cause; each is permitted to dream in their own way
You are entitled to your share
You can save no one else, but give help when asked
As you will be; no one escapes
Believe in spite of, not because
All the evidence to the contrary
And you will not miss this chance to be distinguished
Any more than daylight can be extinguished
By the coming of night, which reigns only in opposition
Each man's death becomes his station
There is no safer place for captains and kings
Ten thousand were drowned that never were born;
A peasant wrote that
Music is the sounds between the silence, and
You can play it on your porch, sitting down
That which is greatest is not inevitable




Puzzlement

The little marshes of desolation make one wonder           
How did a soccer ball get so far downstream
In water not even deep enough to float a dream?
And what does the green ribbon mean?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Vic Chesnutt

All right, you don't want to fuck
I'll just go on downstairs
And listen to Vic Chesnutt
Up close a crow isn't all black
And neither is the night


If you are the woman I see
How come you can't be she?
If you are the woman I see
How come you won't be she?


They say to ask for what you need
But then . . . .
They say to ask for what you want
But then . . . .
Nobody gives you anything
Do they?



Being the flame must be all consuming
Everyone wants to get near you 
        all the same
I'm sorry for all this priestly contumely
I hate it when you don't address me by my name

Outside it's so cold the trees are exploding
But in here you could die of exposure
I been alone now so long I'm kind of imploding
And I'm all too used to this kind of disclosure

I said I wanted to write a song about Vic Chesnutt
But really I want him to write one about me
I said I wanted to write a song about Vic Chesnutt
But really I want him to write one about me
How cool would that be
How could that be

You are the woman I see
So how come you can't be she?
You are the woman I see
So how come it's only her you won't be?

All right, you don't want to fuck
I'll just go downstairs and listen to Vic Chesnutt
Up close a crow isn't all black
And neither is the night

Vic Chesnutt, Vic Chesnutt, I'd take a bullet for you
And you know that is true
Hey, you know I'd take a bullet for you
For all the good that would do
Hey, hey, I'd take a bullet for you
But I wouldn't take two 

Kind of a Prayer

Go to sleep now
Without even dreaming
Pretend the Lord holds you safe in his hands
I wish for you: a brand-new world
Each day in your blue eyes gleaming
Compassion for all the children of man
Stern judgment for the jailers
Mercy for the kept
A harvest of wildflowers from every place
Where Jesus walked and wept
A place in someone's heart
To shelter from dangers
Courage to take the part
Of the harried unwelcome strangers
It's own room for sorrow
Sanctuary for Blue Bear
Again tomorrow another day lived
As some kind of prayer

Stay with me now
While there's still time
Imagine there will always be enough
For extra innings
With the pennant riding
Light sufficient to call the season's bluff
I hope for you: Eternity in an instant
Love in a glance
The hazards of fortune
A second chance
The power of words
Truth to power
Songs of the birds
The days and the hours
Its own room for sorrow
Sanctuary for Blue Bear
Again tomorrow another day lived
As some kind of prayer


Go from me now
The time is come
Make believe it always does
I wish that you may always
Find your path home with an old song
Just as true as whatever was
May you know: Winter in the rose
Lights on the bridge
Horses in the snow
Stars over the ridge
God's eye for color
The Buddha's gift for form
The poet's way with chaos
Blake's place in the storm
Salvation in a moment of clarity
Hope as a deep well
The grace of charity
Joy like ringing a bell
Illumination as in a mirror
Pride in your name
Never to hide your face
To burn like a flame
It's own room for sorrow
Sanctuary for Blue Bear
Again tomorrow another day lived
As some kind of prayer


Come back to me whenever
You feel the need
Ah, you know I'll always be here
Act as if we wrote the lines
Like there's no other way to be
There ain't nothing to fear
May you learn: to wait for that which will not wait for you
Never to talk to iron
That to seek is to worship
That to wander is to find
To envy the ragged their appearance
In the waiting rooms of the Lord
That redemption cannot be taken
At the point of a sword
There's no profit so great
As the wages of sin
The moment and the universe are made
Of what we carry within
To make room for sorrow
Sanctuary for Blue Bear
Again tomorrow another day lived
As some kind of prayer

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Whereabouts of Angels

 Where are all the angels
 That used to flock when a little boy prayed
 And watch over him in the night
 Whenever he was afraid?


 Where are all the angels
 Who lived with William Blake
 Who guided his hand and his heart
 So he wouldn’t make a mistake?


 Where are all the angels
 Who danced on the head of a pin
 Who pulled my neighbors from the rubble
 When the roof caved in?


 Where all the angels
 Who bear sweet princes to rest
 Whose flowered breath reassures us
 Even the smallest lives are blessed?


 Where are all the angels
 When the lights go out
 When the night is long and there is no sleep
 And my soul is shackled with doubt?


Where are all the angels
Who used to fly above me all night and day long?
I been looking and looking
Please don’t tell me you’re gone


Where are all the angels
Who used to fortify my soul?
Maybe they don’t come around no more
Once you start to get old


Where are all the angels
Who hang out everywhere music plays?
I’ll tell you what, I’ll make you a deal
If I keep on singing, will you promise to stay?


Where are all the angels?
Where are all the angels?
On high
On high
Right besides
Right besides
Within
Within
Listen
Just listen
Listen
Just listen

Saturday, August 20, 2011

On the Ward

 Horse-headed horror hanging in the corners, make-believing
They cut me right down the middle, and I crossed over
They used clamps to hold me open, but the substance had long ago seeped away
Nothing to find there now but innards, them too leaking slowly
Scrape the wound, consult the bandage, find neither the highway nor the sign
I'm oppressed by the paper's glare, and I wonder how does darkness cast its shadow
I'm not gone yet, but I'm not getting up
Pretty nurse's hand up your thigh
And nothing moves, just the line
Drip the dream back into you
No one sleeps alone
Television burning through the night as I make my shuffling rounds
Dangling from a coatrack, urine in my hand
The old ones say little, they never sleep
Time enough soon for that, I guess, though I don't dare ask
Ah, you'll be leaving here soon, they heckle
But even tourists get killed sometimes I think
Especially if they don't know the lay of the land
Darkness's shadow is no bigger than a rat, scratching around
Less easily frightened, a small little thing, furtive and brave, silverfooted ferret phantom
No bigger than your shoe
Slyer than a fox, but damp
Winged like a bat, but earthbound
Moves every time you do, and keeps its distance
Can't be trapped with mirrors
No sadder or more restless than you are
Just here, just like you
Lives in the corner of your eye
There is something underneath
I've seen it
There ain't nothing wrong with being high
And there ain't nothing to be afraid of
Not junk, and not pain
Everyone's got their own definition
Whatever makes you dream

Order (A Perfect World)


                              If cats lived on rooftops
                         Pigeons would be scarce as mie

Water of Life

If love were whiskey, would you give me a sip?    
Give me a sip 
Give me a sip
If love were whiskey, would you give me a sip?
And let me drink it straight from your lips


If whiskey were love, would you give me a kiss?
Give me a kiss
Give me a kiss
If whiskey were love, would you give me a kiss?
And say to me here, you drink it like this


If time were a waltz, could I have the next dance?
Have the next dance
Have the next dance
If time were a waltz, could I have the next dance?
And if I prove graceless, just one more chance


If faith were a bed, could I sleep here tonight?
Sleep here tonight
Sleep here tonight
If faith were a bed, could I sleep here tonight?
And dream with you in the pale moonlight


If hope were a blanket, would you cover me?
Cover me
Cover me
If hope were a blanket, would you cover me?
Brush my hair from my eyes, whisper softly


If I were a mirror, would you look into my eyes?
Look into my eyes
Look into my eyes
If I were a mirror, would you look into my eyes?
And let me show you all the beauty I recognize


If the heart were a guitar, would you play the strings?
Play the strings
Play the strings
If the heart were a guitar, would you play the strings?
Let your hair hang down while the lonesome chords ring


If we were a river, would we roll to the sea?
Roll to the sea
Roll to the sea
If we were a river, would we roll to the sea?
Wash into each other and then still waters be


If the morning weren't tomorrow, would it be so long?
Be so long
Be so long
If the morning weren't tomorrow, would it be so long?
Since we searched for each other, but we'd already gone


If love were a road, would you wait at the gate?
Wait at the gate
Wait at the gate
If love were a road, would you wait at the gate?
And hang out a lantern when it gets late







Writing on Water






In the dark all the coughing
The clatter of the dice
The rhythm of the ball
The melting of the ice
And I been reading Keats in the night
Reaching a last hand out toward the light
Figures of hoboes between the tracks
The lanterns and the highwaymen are real
So was the gunfire the very next time
I rode on down to finish the deal


I saw my father mad in the street
Even in a year of living
How much could you write on the water?







I assure you there's nothing new to say
I don't care in how many tongues you speak
Might be the first time you've particularly heard it
That don't mean it's unique
I been listening to Dylan every morning
Singing every word and heeding every warning
Nothing is quicker than death
No matter how fast you live
It's already there waiting for you with every last breath
What you can keep is only what you give

I saw my father mad in the street
Even in a year of living
How much could you write on the water?


Sometimes it's too beautiful to surrender
Othertimes too terrible to bear
There's room enough in every parlor
To set an empty chair
I been standing at the intersection
Wondering what to do with my soul
How come I got nothin' to show
For all the times it's been bought and sold
All these missing persons out here
Searching the sky for angels with wings
When anyone of us might break the chains and soar
Go somewhere down within and find the heart to sing
Must have been nearby a schoolyard
Cause I could hear the children and they ran and chirped and chattered
The tribulations weighing on me lifted like a cloud of unknowing
Took flight with the four winds and scattered

I saw my father mad in the street
Even in a year of living
How much could you write on the water? 

 











Friday, August 19, 2011

Silence





These are commonplaces:
No one knows freedom as one in prison
What's most important to the dead
      is that they're dead
There is no love without loss
There is no life without love
So what can I tell you?
Where can the gypsies go?
How free are the guards?


Satori



Hey Dad
I know a lot more now, I think
But it might be too late
I love you more though

Unknown Soldiers

More than this we need not know:
He was too young, no more than a boy, hardly
He was brave and mistaken in defense of an estate
On which his own purchase was too recent
To permit him true realization of its value
Someone somewhere missed him greatly, or would have someday
Left to his own devices he might have found a better way of dying, and
The world was no better for his parting
He has his counterpart on the other side
More than this we need not know
And never have I been to war, and never will I go


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

1968

                                In 1968, I was just ten years old
                                The world was all ours, or so we’d been told
                                We could have whatever we wanted, it was all ours to hold
                                For fortune favors the free and the bold

                                Yippie-i-io, yippie -i-o-ki-yay
                                I am a proud child of the brave U.S. of A
                               Had a flag on my wall, it was red, white, and blue
                               Someone stole it from me, and they sold it to you


                              And all of that time, we were embarked upon war
                              Knew where it was, never knew what it was for
                              My friend’s brother came home, I saw them at the store
                              He said to me, Little buddy, I don’t want to go back there no more






Dad was out back, out there by the fence
I told him they’d killed  him, just like the president
The gunman got away, no one knows where he went

Our neighbor said maybe now those goddamn
            niggers will finally see sense 

The senator had to tell them that their prince
        was dead
It wasn't so much what, as how gently 
        it was said 
He consoled them in the dark with tragic
       words that he'd read
Two months later he took a bullet in his 
       own head

                                                             Yippie-i-o, yippie i-o-ki-yay
I am a proud child of the brave U.S. of A
Had a flag on my wall, it was red white and blue
Someone stole it from me and they sold it to you




And he rode in his casket behind the two mules
He’d worked this old earth with just the simplest of tools
Plain words shone in his mouth like the most precious 

            of jewels
Who’d want to make any harder what is already so cruel?




And they carried the senator down on a funeral train
The people waited by the tracks in the sun and the rain
My map of the country was all bloodied and stained
Hello tomorrow, sorrow and pain

Yippie-i-io, yippie -i-o-ki-yay
I am a proud child of the brave U.S. of A
Had a flag on my wall, it was red, white, and blue
Someone stole it from me, and they sold it to you
 














Then the sufferers set the ghettos 
        on fire                      
They made of their own homes

        a great funeral pyre
Too many broken promises, 

        thwarted desires
Make hopes and dreams the confidence

        schemes of liars                                               

 











And the whole world was watching those kids in the streets
Of the city with the big shoulders, where the democrats meet
I knew they were righteous if doomed to defeat
And I’ve nevermore trusted the cop on the beat




The swiftest stood with their fists in the air
Their heads were bowed, their feet were bare
In supplication and defiance for the sufferers not there
So the owners stole their gold and silver away from that pair


Yippie-i-io, yippie -i-o-ki-yay
I am a proud child of the brave U.S. of A
Had a flag on my wall, it was red, white, and blue
Someone stole it from me, and they sold it to you






Well may you ask me how someone so young
Saw fit to pass judgment on things so long since begun
The fighter spoke like a child, but I saw his purpose was 

                strong
He said I was never called “nigger” by them Viet Cong

The gypsy stepped out and set fire to that song
He said  he thought it was groovy, others said it was 

                wrong
But the flag ain’t the property of the rich and the strong
We’re all native sons, we all belong

Yippie-i-io, yippie -i-o-ki-yay
I am a proud child of the brave U.S. of A
Had a flag on my wall, it was red, white, and blue
Someone stole it from me, and they sold it to you







Well, I lack ambition and I cannot keep score
Ever since then I sometimes wonder what all this freedom is for
And I remember what that boy told me was the truth of his war
"Once you fuck up that bad kid, you don't have to live up
                 to nothin' no more
Once you fuck up that bad, kid, you don't have to live up
                to nothin' no more" 
 
Yippie-i-io, yippie -i-o-ki-yay
I am a proud child of the brave U.S. of A
Had a flag on my wall, it was red, white, and blue
Someone stole it from me, and they sold it to you


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rimbaud's Mirror




"He is love, the perfect measure reinvented, logic marvelous and unthinkable, an eternity: an instrument loved for its deadly qualities . . . . His body! The redemption dreamed of, the shattering of grace joined with new violence . . . . His day! The abolition of all noisy and restless suffering in music that is more intense."
                         -- Rimbaud,  Illuminations












Some men use their whole life searching
Others spend their days throwing it all away
What is a man on the road but time?
In the glass I see someone not there
As wood might a guitar, or ashes the fire
Does a sound feel for that which made it, and what?
Do I not love my god, and you yours?
Should we, each of us?
I look for another, the other
Whose face is the same as mine
Had it experience beyond the separation, both of them
If love is a joining, and death is (a)part
What then is birth?
A guess, approximation, a song
The best we can do, like god
Do roses miss the earth?
No, because they are still bound
Greater consciousness means lesser beauty
A cheetah slowed is still as swift
Because his speed is grace
A panther is the kill
So the household cats practice
And contemplate alternative notions of progress
In their dreams there are no lions
My litheness is half, my burden double
First the wasting, then the gain
I sold you contradiction, a two-faced god
What I most feared, the coin of the realm
What goes between: To know that you cannot find it
This side of the grave, and that from the other
You cannot speak it
If I should find him what then would you think of me?
When never have I seen the like rings from all your mouths
Yet I know I am two
I took the clocks off the walls and covered the sun
With tinfoil and every kind of glitter
Brought redemption in inarticulate moans of the heart
        and hosannas of the flesh
Though still we wait for miracles
A dead man owes no debts
A living one no favors
And is entitled to your consideration
How should I be lonely among so many ghosts?
What harvest laments its field?
In the western lands the sun never sets
There they never rest, and long for Africa
Where night is more inhabited
I'm afraid I'll go out like a light, just like I came on
Know what I mean, honey?
Each light comes only for extinction
Never bright enough, it gives others that for which it shines in vain
And is first to the darkness which it knows best
Poets end badly because that is how they begin
As do all who go in search of themselves
Or else why go


"He was like a mirror.  Whatever you were
looking for, you were going to find in him.
It was not in him to lie or say anything
malicious. He had all of the intricacy
of the very simple."
     --Marion Keisker (Sam Phillips'
                secretary at Sun Records)


                                                                                                                                                                                            







What I Want to Sound Like

And what I want to sound like now is an old house, abandoned but not forgotten,  completely, haunted, of course, but glad for the company not just of bats, an owl,  raccoons,  and smaller furry animals, and spiders, some ants  and other insignificant things of which I am no more aware than a body its cells until the rot and multiplication takes control, an instrument for the wind and the sun and the night and the air to play on, with decrepit porch and worn staircase, a conduit for memories, some of things that may never have happened, a refuge for vagrant thoughts, things, and people, a little off-kilter, maybe somewhat out of tune, a guitar with broken strings, depending on how you hear or what you listen to,  a place so old it’s forgotten  more of the country than most will ever know, wishing for coyotes, like a prophet concerned less  with the future than with what has been lost on the way to where we are, and which makes what is to come inevitable, as the judgment,  playing an old song constructed of wood  and the damp, susceptible to trains and never drums, cries in the night, tales of hardhearted fathers, unnatural mothers, falsehearted judges, perfidious captains, meretricious ladies, avaricious lords of industry, lonesome Indians, sweet suicides, the gentle mad, spirits on the ward,  grieving citizens, the sorrowful and all the mad, poor wayfaring strangers on the American land seduced by beautiful words and their own faith and hope, bigger than  ours, rummies and dreamers in a bar, ruined nobles forever without character, in their ancestry and their progeny,  those who lived by their own code and confronted so many things bigger than themselves, the darkness on the land, the sea and the times, grand armies and petty schemes, ruling delusions, the urge to belonging, the sorrow that surpasseth understanding, horses in the snow, the poverty of sorrow, the sorrow of poverty, children hungry and mothers powerless, love betrayed and abandoned but never forgotten, rue and thyme,  poor William and Barbara Allen, death bell’s knelling, the red rose and the briar,  a blowing gate, gentle, accidental killers, the king’s soldiers,  yarrow beneath the gallows, Pierce Arrows out in the clearing where the WalMart used to be, birds in the chimney and shoes on the table, angels in the clearing, vagrant dogs, Leigh Ann’s laughter, her hope and health, and Anne’s eyes, gentle young men coughing in the rain, the rasp of Dad’s face against mine when he had not shaved, Brian’s hand on my shoulder (and he thinks me strong), dogs barking in the night,  the snowfalling all over the living and the dead, Aunt Mary’s unfathomed kindness and simple joy, unrequited love, a world of desire, loneliness in lamplit rooms, how hard we laughed, how hard we cried, every time someone died, hope always when an infant cried, all the gentle acts and love that left us so sad when the house finally emptied, taken and more abandoned by a bank,  every fatal foolish futile gesture with which you said I and I am here but this world as it is is not my home yet where else will we know such joy and beauty, so many days we have been out to roam, sure it must be we can find our way home,  our lies are so much more beautiful than theirs, all the lost homelands and houses, tiny grandmothers with piping laughter and heaving shoulders dispensing ginger ale, living so large, and so long ago, forever, is this not all we will know of eternity and could you not live it, refugee cats, flowers so pretty they don’t need names, girls the same, a child’s cosmology, fluoxetine if that’s what it takes and no shame because, one is always more than many, than  money, contempt for the counters and changers, tramps for whom it prayed, a mandolin, a violin, an upright bass,  an accordion maybe, a harmonica,  two guitars, all these imperfect things, dust and something that flows, Johnny Cash, a river, potter’s field and the wind blowing endlessly,  fear of God,  rain seeping in, falling leaves skittering across the pavement, dust on a hardwood floor, always in the middle of the night waiting for some tomorrow, a ghost singing in a haunted house that’s burning down,  Grandpa’s  pocket watch and Breton dreams, matchbox wishes and freight train rolling, the abandonment of dissolution and generosity, wildflowers, death before insurance, a radio that only plays in the middle of the night songs imagined and imperfectly remembered, the democracy and justice of the beggars’ graveyard because this land, this land, ain’t no one’s land, this land, this land,  is a burying ground, all things named, haunted singing in a ghostly house that’s burning down, without fear or trepidation, songs heroic enough to stop time . . . a cracked Irish American country blues of my own imagining, three chords are enough for the truth but three minutes are not,  for history . . . “all the lost causes of the human soul,” John Fahey, navigating by the stars . . . the real world but not this world, this world but not the real world . . . How can any melody be new, there’s but so many notes, and the world has had so much time to play them,  all real songs are old, born in the same place and time . . ..If it still doesn’t sound right, drink more than a fair amount of Rebel Yell, take a couple of Vicodins, stop working for a living, and read a real newspaper at 3:10 a.m. . . . shut the tv off . . . you’ll be allright

Monday, August 15, 2011

Killing a Crow

Something moves, then the collision
Everything follows from indecision                                    
All was lost, except for the beginning
And what people could remember
There was a sound the wind made in the ruined trees
The same in spring as in December
 Silence down in the dirt and leaves
 Something rotting beneath the eaves
 Progress brings new disease
 Where would the rats be without the fleas?
 Black dog out there, prowling around for me
 Next time we meet, will be number three
 Kill a crow
 Change the season
 But when you kill that crow
You can’t have any reason


 

Man's Angels

                                                   


            That old sun will rise
           In a child's bright eyes
             Time always flies





                                                                                                   

On Listening to Like a Rolling Stone

Thunderous fairy tale
With a simple motive:
Beware the perils of prosperity
And the falsity of compassion
You don't know how it feels
Unless you've been there
And you can't visit
To have only yourself is freedom
And terror 
                                                        
                                                                            

Mind

When I understood how I could be broken
I became as stone


A Perfect World

A perfect world might be so imperfect
You might not want to live in it at all
It would be harder to get rich or stay poor
People would still die too soon, for the worst reasons,
               and it would rain too much
In the cities and not enough on the plains
Love would not aways last, and the night would be long
When sleep would not come, and short when we rested
Children would laugh too little and cry too loud
Some would be sacrifice to our distractions
Music would be as dear to us as dreams
Ghosts would hold the lonesome from their friends
Wildflowers would hug the roadsides without choking
Orphans would find solace in the arms of strangers
The prisons would be full, and the people would be free
No one would know the names of the rulers
Day would follow the night, and darkness the dawn
Wind would drive dry leaves skittering through the alleyway
Our imagination would be insufficient
Clocks and days would be no measure
The desert would desire snow and a rose the sunshine
Mercy would be less in evidence than sacrifice
Justice less wanted than compassion
And order more highly regarded tha chaos
In the howling wilderness would bloom a garden
Until the dust and beasts again overtake it
Most of the news would still be bad
And most of the people would still be glad
All this would be true of a perfect world
To remind us of what a rare thing it is

                                                                                                        

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Diagnosis

You're not really telling me anything I don't know
Anyway, you're not being all that specific
it doesn't change anything

The sky becomes its color
The crows become their calls
The wind becomes its sound
There's nothing more to discover
Nothing at all



The Dark Ages




















I like men best once ruined
It's their little vanities move me most
Like the unquenchable optimism of bill collectors
Though as remnant or reason I wonder
For their position or situation
Of that which advanced them or that which held them back
At the approach to that shadowline where hope becomes folly,
                            and vice versa
Where the future turns to history, possibility to memory,
       choices to regrets, avenues to dead ends
An explanation for where they are, or
A float that holds them up in deepening water
Did he think too much of himself
Once upon a time in his day
Or is this all that remains of things taken from him, or
      lost along the way
As in a box in storage somewhere there exists the fragment
      of an abandoned manuscript
Some longhand pages in a blue spiral notebook the same
      this one
That perhaps might even withstand contemporary scrutiny
At least not be so embarrassing as memory would make them
And in a wallet an overhandled photograph
And in a bureau drawer a religious medallion and some letters
    behind the undershirts
And memories of hockey games kept even closer

"I don't care, that Dan Burke has to be the ugliest guy I've ever seen"
Says my friend to me of some vice-president
Whose existence oppresses us with the unworthiness of
      heights never attained
He speaks without irony or blindness
His shirtsleeves torn from cuff to collar, nearly
And fastened together with paperclips
His face pocked and wenned (where I have scars)
Wild hairs sprouting from the bridge of his nose
His fly even unzipped, often, and I am dressed for yardwork
Some others, too, have noticed the way he is starting to smell,
      and even commented on it
Which makes me all that much more determined to love him
We know that modernity always hurtles toward the primitive
That society is a spectacle, and that we like to watch
Baudrillard's URL, the value of a bhat, Dylan's lyrics, and
      the prospect of robot armageddon, increasingly imminent
And that our vehicles are too battered for the information superhighway
Where the crashes will be that much more spectacular, this time
Which allows us the latitude of fools in the time of the Black Death
The contempt of wolves for dogs, and of maroons for slaves
The singlemindedness of gargoyles

Epitaph for a Stripper

Her dream was a place in corporate America
Was what her daddy told the newspapers
Once they found her body on the side
            of the New Jersey Turnpike

Essence

No more can I speak about what I write
Than the deer its headlong flight
From pursuit. Swift, beautiful and true
Had it slowed even once, more,
It would never have caught the bullet

Experience

Old Gates Brown
Spent his days sitting around
Talking about hitting
"The only thing I know about it,"
He would say
"Is you get a good pitch and you hit it"