Sunday, August 23, 2009

Darkness Visible - Series of Dreams #12

Darkness visible
Rain Clouds audible
So long, Maggie
I'm goin' back to Indiana….

The last song.The last lights go out on the carnival Midway. Circus Tent comes down. Clyde Beatty throws horsemeat to his two old African lions. The midgets are doing amyl nitrate poppers. The train is leaving. Out on the highway, the circus front man is one town or two states away; nailing posters up on creosote poles. He's got a headlight out. In more ways than one. His girl ran off with The Holy Ghost of Indiana. At least he thinks she did. He can’t be sure. Depression and bone-deep confusion run in the family. He does not have intellectual access to Williams Styron's book, "Darkness Visible," but he feels the whole thing anyway. By hillbilly osmosis.
Fell in love with the pony ride girl
Round and round her little pony's twirl
Sparkling eyes and curly curls
She went back to Indiana….

Something is closing in…out in Texarkana he sees an old guy pushing a shopping cart full of empty tin cans and broken bottles. Our carnival man pretends he is not seeing his future. He pulls into Shorty's Super Mart; goes in for a bottle of strawberry soda. Big Red. Tells Shorty he's heading for Indiana, in search of his one true love. Shorty laughs. "Didn't you say the same thing on your last three go-rounds through here? Let me tell you somthin' kid. Dreamin' dreams is like chewin' gum…chew too long, it all turns to stone." And there we'll leave our man as the credits roll. Dazed. Between the plains of the buffalo and the wild dogs of Mexico.
Turn the record over. Medicine for the ritual. Begin the circle again. The carnival circuit. The real message, in these series of dreams, lies somewhere between the blood and the candle smoke. Don't look down, friends, the ground might be burning.

And this road is dark at night
When you've only got one headlight
And you've lost your appetite
For idle dreaming….
Nailing posters up on creosote poles
Fallin' asleep, running off the road….
Don't ask for whom the bell tolls
It tolls for me…In Indiana.

(Series of Dreams #12. The final episode of stories concerning 12 songs on the coming album: Blood and Candle Smoke. Now available by pre order from

Monday, August 10, 2009

American Rivers - Series of Dreams #11

We named them for Indians
Our guilt to forsake
The Delaware, the Blackfoot
The Flathead and Snake
Now they flow past Casinos and Hamburger stands
They are waving farewell to the kid on the land….
With their jig-sawed old arteries
All clogged and defiled
No open heart miracle's
Gonna turn 'em back wild.

It's the river towns which attract me. Pittsburgh, Portland, St. Louis, Kansas City.
Even Manhattan and old El Paso. I tell European folks, planning to travel the U.S.; aim for a river town like Pittsburgh or Portland and you might still find an America of used book stores, local radio stations and a cafe cooking real food. Maybe. There might be a butcher, a baker and a candle stick maker. You might dissolve into another America. The towns that clang with the "rhymes and the rattles of the runaway trains, and the songs of the cowboys, and the sound of the rain." Towns like the poetry out of Carl Sandburg's song bag. Hog Butchers of the world! Stormy, husky, brawling city of the big shoulders. The sunsets look different from an old iron bridge over the Monongahela. Help you conjure up Huckleberry Finn and Ramblin Jack Elliott singing "912 Greens." Towns with voices. New Orleans on a Friday night: "With the wind blowin' off the Mrs. Miller river"….to quote Ramblin Jack. Not speaking of nostalgia, here, so much as a heart-pounding attempt to find where the music still flows in the "weird old America" of clogged rivers and empty factories. The America which has lost it's "Old Man River" Voice. Did it all die with Walt Disney? Meredith Wilson? Kerouac? Thomas Wolfe? Crazy Horse? Edward Abbey? Early Randy Newman? Harper Lee? Mark Twain? Joseph Mitchell? Fred Neil? Walt Whitman? The Band? Stephen Foster?

Past towns gone to bankers
And fields gone to seed
All cut up and carved out
Divided by greed
And old grandfather catfish
With his whiskers so long
And his life is a struggle
Cause the oxygen's gone….

Naw, there aint no more cane on the Brazos. But there's many a river that waters the land. Some nights my dreams float and roll along to the poetry of old folk songs, and there's always a river involved. Shenandoah to the Rio Grande. And a kid is always sleeping on the riverbank, near an old Chinese graveyard. It's me. Never figured what it means. Can songs and dreams really be explicated? Naw. Only rhymed and sung. Over and over. A river is a carrier of dreams. "The water is wide…I can’t make it over…nor do I have…the wings to fly." We are stuck inside the river dream. For a moment. "Until human voices wake us, and we drown….." (Eliot.)

(This is song #11 in a series of dreams…song sketches from the coming album: Blood and Candle Smoke. Coming to a drive-in theater near you….soon.)