December 11, 2016
A Poetic Pas De Deux Between
Frank and plainmama
An edited version from
I gave birth to a lie and it gave birth to many more.
I watched it multiply till I could stop it no more.
It was all fine until truth decided to come out
And draw a thin line
Between truth and doubt.
The lies were spread, the truth washed them away.
Soon, they were all dead but the scars came to stay.
Now, the lies are gone the truth never picked a side.
Scars are reborn
The mother has died.
These words spoke to plainmama and she replied:
Truth has healing power.
It might feel raw right now,
Like ripping off a band aid,
But wounds heal faster
When exposed to the air of truth.
They only fester when covered with lies.
Take care of yourself, my friend.
Give yourself of grace and love
In tough times.
Thanks a lot.
And if you need a friend
I’m always here.
I know that.
Hope you are doing good
Trying not to get sick
In a house of illness.
It’s a tough task.
Oh, it is.
When you are the day care,
Cook and night nurse
Exposure and Exhaustion
Makes the statistics of my
Contracting said illness
Maybe wine will help?
Is that one of the old remedies?
Just say yes.
So who’s the one running sick?
3 of 4 boys.
Eldest has held out.
I’m sure he will be barfing tomorrow.
Oh, that’s a tough situation.
Par for the parenting course.
Haha. Yes, but I guess it’s worth the memories.
Puke does not equal memories.
For Puker or puke cleaner,
Or puke watcher
Or puke smeller
Or in regards to
Puke, barf or vomit.
Oh, I feel your pain.
Disgust would be a better word.
There is not much grosser than vomit.
I’ll talk to you later.
January 15, 2009
Dark As Dungeon Way Down In A Mind
We’re on a bad motorcycle with the devil in the seat
Going ninety miles an hour down a dead end street.
My correspondent replied to my post Bob Dylan The Reactionary. An excerpt:
Poetry is a funny thing: it bypasses the cerebral when it is best IMHO…Poetry is nonsense, making the nonsense of mortality a bit more bearable for a moment in time.
I suppose that’s a valid reflection. There has been some debate as to whether song lyrics are poetry. In a lyric’s effort to condense experience into the fewest possible words my own thinking is that they are of the essence of poetry whether or not one considers them ‘true poetry.’
I certainly carry innumerable song lyrics around in my head while very little ‘true poetry’ has had the same effect on me. A great many of the lyrics are Country and Western and what passed for Folk. I find references in Dylan of the same importance of favorites that I have.
I recently ran Hank Snow’s Ninety Miles An Hour Down A Dead End Street on Rhapsody and was surprised to discover that Dylan had actually recorded a heavily edited version as a religious gospel dirge. Don’t get the connection but if Dylan says so…
The part of the lyric that has always struck me the most forcefully is the line: We’re on a bad motorcycle with the devil in the seat going ninety miles an hour down a dead end street. I apply the line to all kinds of situations including the present political quagmire. Dylan seems to emphasize the illicit love affair. Doesn’t really matter, the point is that that little piece of ephemera had a profound influence on us. Dylan resurrected the song fifty years on while I use the image that appealed to me in my writing frequently. Poetry? Well, I think maybe.
There are a couple of other country classics that live in my mind by Merle Travis: Dark As A Dungeon Way Down In A Mine and Nine Pound Hammer. I always imagined those were folk songs dating back to the 1880s or something but Travis wrote as late as 1947. The relevant quotes for me:
It’s dark as a dungeon way down in a mine
Where the wind never blows, and the sun never shines,
Where the dangers are double and the pleasures are few.
Roll on buddy, don’t you roll so slow,
Tell me, how can I roll when the wheels won’t go.
This nine pound hammer is a little too heavy
For my size, boys, for my size.
The first quote is from Dungeon, the latter from Nine Pound Hammer.
For myself I always gave the lyrics a psychological twist saying ‘mind’ for mine. Roll on buddy referred to my habitual procrastination, psychological blockage preventing action. Had problems. Solved ’em. Are these songs poetry? They are in my mind. I make all kinds of things out of them even the innocuous line:
It’s a long way to Harlan,
It’s a long way to Hazard,
Just to get a little brew. boys,
Just to get a little brew.
I’m not thinking of booze either as in ‘My Buckets Got A Hole In It.’ Can’t buy no beer.
I’m sure Dylan cherishes both those songs. They’re the classics that people in the know know. They don’t call us cognoscenti for nothing. Roll on buddy…
As a last example before I get to the gist of this thing is the song ‘Grand Coulee Dam written by Woody Guthrie a man I really despise- damn it. But talent will out and while I have my prejudices I’m no bigot. For me this lyric is as poetic as you can get.
Well, the world holds seven wonders that the travelers always tell,
Some gardens and some towers, I guess you know them well,
But now the greatest wonder is in Uncle Sam’s fair land,
It’s the great Columbia River and the big Grand Coulee Dam.
She heads up the Canadian Rockies where the rippling waters glide,
Comes a-roaring down the canyon to meet the salty tide,
Of the wide Pacific Ocean where the sun sets in the West
And the big Grand Coulee country in the land I love the best.
Uncle Sam took up the challenge in the year of thirty-three,
For the farmer and the factory hand and for all of you and me,
He said, “Roll along, Columbia, you can ramble to the sea,
But river, while you’re rambling, you can do some work for me.”
Now in Washington and Oregon you can hear the factories hum,
Making chrome and making manganese and bright aluminum,
And there roars the Flying Fortress now to fight for Uncle Sam,
Spawned upon the King Columbia past the Big Grand Coulee Dam.
In the misty crystal glitter of that wild and windward spray,
Men have fought the pounding waters and met a watery grave,
Well she tore their boats to splinters but she gave men dreams to dream
Of the day the Coulee Dam would cross that wild and wasted stream.
Nice stuff from my point of view. Doesn’t get any better than that. The song gave me dreams to dream. If you want to hear the best rendition ever by Lonnie Donegan click this:
My verdict is that good lyrics are good poetry while bad poetry doesn’t necessarily make a good lyric.
Now as to the lyrics to Highwater by Dylan that my correspondent referred me to that I discussed in the post: Bob Dylan The Reactionary.
As the lyric touched my correspondent’s psychology I tackled the lyric from a different angle as the way I was interpreting it may not have reflected his. For all I know this doesn’t either but I think it’s interesting.
The lyric in question:
Well, George Lewis told the Englishman, the Italian and the Jew
You can’t open up your mind, boys, to
every conceivable point of view
They got Charles Darwin trapped out on Highway 5
Judge says to the high sheriff, I want him dead or alive
Either one, I don’t care
The format Dylan uses here is that of the genre of old jokes that begins something like this: A Protestant, a Catholic and a Jew… then moves on to the punchline. Dylan’s presentation can be interpreted as flip so he is probably thinking of the verse as a joke.
As I said in my previous post George Lewis represents a Black, the Englishman as Science or Darwin, the Italian Catholicism or Christianity and the Jew Judaism. Four different conceivable views that can’t be held simultaneously no matter how open you think your mind is.
These are four crucial irreconcilable conflicts in Dylan’s mind while they probably represent the major psychological dilemma of most White or Jewish people.
The problem is especially acute for Dylan who was indoctrinated into Jewish Lubavitcher beliefs for his Bar Mitzvah while having
been brought up from infancy on Hillbilly music, Country if you prefer, which is quintessential Christian music whether sung in church or honky-tonk. Those good old boys live with their religion even when they’re robbing banks so even with0ut going to church Dylan has a strong Christian background. He did sing a sexual anthem like Ninety Miles An Hour as a hymn. Ponder that for a minute.
So Dylan has had to reconcile his dual religious beliefs seeming to have come down on the side of his Lubavitcher Judaism which is no surprise. He then has to do something about his religious vs. scientific or evolutionary beliefs. Darwin doesn’t go with Judaism. He centers the problem on Darwin as Science. Here he has made the decision to imprison or kill Evolutionary beliefs. Dead or Alive, either way, Judge says, he don’t care. Having eliminated Science and Christianity we have Judasim and the Blacks on the racial issue. Dylan has subordinated himself to the Blacks on the racial issue and is willing to take the inferior position. While he believes he has resolved these for him difficult problems they still trouble him or he wouldn’t be talking about them. Strange.
Why did my correspondent associate me with the verse? He says: Just thought of you and the line(s) for some reason. My correspondent seems to be wrestling with Dylan’s problem himself. As I have written on all four topics fairly extensively and I know the correspondent has read lots of my stuff I suppose the lines suggested me. The song isn’t good poetry and not even good lyrics but if it succeeded at least on my correspondent’s level one would have to concede that lyrics are poetry. The better the lyric the better the poetry. And now for a little circular logic: The better the poetry the better the lyric.