Faulkner’s first draft of “Dying As I Lay”

Tossing another token to John Prine who epitomized offering more with less. I liken this to a song rather than a poem but I’ll leave that definition to the reader.

Hey, dying ain’t all it’s cracked up to be

so don’t you go listening to that Fibber McGee

nobody’s thinking ‘I gotta hit the finish line strong’

’cause there ain’t any victors collecting the spoils

 

Living serves up messy helpings of joy and dire

on the level with the devil and singing with the choir

as my hourglass sands silently collect at the bottom

I’m wishing I’d taken the surprise behind Door #3

 

Did I master the rudiments of bountiful living?

or was my existence knowledge minus application?

how about throwing myself on the mercy of the court

Alex, why yes I’ll go ish kabibble on final jeopardy

 

At the end of our paths of becoming a human emeritus

we remain our own executioners serving out a life sentence

I’ve learned not much changes by putting the tea kettle on

IPA salvation at the brewery gives you much better odds

 

But what about if I decide I want to come back

unfinished business, get me my jacket of flak

you know if Google’s got an app for that?

We all wish for the one offering just rewards

 

So before I coldfoot it out of this Hotel Final

where it’s always checkout hour with no revival

I’ll offer one last howl before my final sunset

serving up these words as a last communion.

Carrying the Poison

* Inspired by the Bruce Springsteen song “Highway Patrolman”

We was raised on a family farm way out of town

sharecroppin’ wasn’t easy but the lifeblood we found

two boys, me and Jed, our sister Rose died at eleven

buried past the barn when he was twelve and I ten

one day here, then gone, Mama said it was the fever

told me not to say a word and everyone believed her

 

Soon Jed turned dark, just ugly treating others

we was the same but so unlike blood brothers

he earned a reputation, it spread and soiled me

kids would quietly edge away, watching fearfully

Becky Cook took to likin’ me, be it luck or fate

with her I felt alive, liftin’ the heaviest of weight

 

Chorus

Life moves on but absence ain’t just not being seen

Dark holes in families, living in the shadows between

 

My parents said don’t you dare bring her around

When I’d ask why, they’d say you just calm down

Jed told me do it, with a look like he knew more

Then he’d smirk and continue with his chores

one day Becky called wanting to see me all alone

Daddy and Mama in town, Jed to parts unknown

 

She showed up and I told her I liked her smile

I went for a favorite book, floatin’ all the while

when I returned, she was gone less one shoe remaining

I called her name to no answer, cryin’ a silent prayer

then I heard a scream outside and tore into the yard

Jed was draggin’ Becky like an animal to discard

 

Chorus

Life moves on but absence ain’t just not being seen

Dark holes in families, living in the shadows between

 

Jed turned, let her go, then ran into the barn

Becky shaking, her dress dirty and blood adorned

Daddy’s truck appeared, he asked “why’s she here?”

“Jed hurt Becky” and Daddy’s eyes emitted fear

“Where’s Jed?” “He’s in the barn and I want at him”

Daddy had Mama take us inside, him pale and grim

 

A shot rang out and Daddy took two hours to return

sayin’ “there’ll be no more problems, nothing of concern”

one day later, he spoke again, “it’s time for the truth”

He said, “Emory, this is gonna taste like bitterroot

it was evil but family, what Jed did to our sweet Rose

but taking it outside us left me nothing but what I chose”

 

Chorus

Life moves on but absence ain’t just not being seen

Dark holes in families, living in the shadows between

 

A decade on, shivering under the strain of a demon seed

so why Jed and not me doing these dirty deeds?

Why his end while Becky blessed me with her grace?

Will my family legacy lure me to such an evil place?

America the Dysfunctional


It’s said this is a most Christian nation
but acting Roman is our supplication
idol worshiping money’s lurid gloss
while justice is bang nailed to the cross
why isn’t wrong wrong as well as right right?
it’s the crux of humanity’s never-ending fight

Chorus:

O beautiful for brownish skies
for modified waves of grain
for clear cut mountain majesty
above the parched and barren plain
America, America,
god what they have done to thee
and crown thy populace via dominionhood
from sea to rising sea

Manifest destiny always holding sway
exceptionalism the sole American way
timeless fables telling that familiar story
all preaching the emancipation glory
free to buy the milk and cereal we want
while freedom’s blueprint sheds its font

Chorus

Those welcoming tragedy for opportunity
dollar sign profits but all they can see
accrual by vanquishing the dispossessed
experimenting on humans, more or less
if a god shed some sort of grace on thee
was it for the despoilers to be all they can be?

Chorus

The most distinguished jurists in all our land
simply bought-and-paid-for with open hands
granting corporations full human rights
extinguishing Lady Liberty’s historic lights
advancing predation for the monied class
leaving hell to pay for all the lower castes

When Too Much Is Not Enough

At the top o’ the heap by rigging the rules
keeping the money flowing to their favorite political tools
discarding the bereft like yesterday’s trash
after fleecing ’em out of their homes and cash

It’s full bore patriotism to the almighty dollar
but never ever is heard any painful blue blood holler
from the wallets of our very own kith and kin
the elite steal from early and often

CHORUS:

They win or lose on whichever path they choose
but triumph or fail, they always will prevail
’cause they’re calling the dance at the predator’s ball

The rich and powerful sup at the trough
they’re brilliant, they deserve it — cough, cough
junk bonds and derivatives crosses of the alter
financiers as deities, surely none will falter

It’s a no product, nothing built, sleight of hand
just vast paper castles built on quicksand
with the tap of a key, so easy to perform
no muss, no fuss, just economic porn

CHORUS

Profit on the guaranteed demise of others
sacrifice for the low level sisters and brothers
but just when is enough and at what cost?
and to what degree of our paradise lost?

What about he who finishes first, shall be last?
it’s fundamental scripture — the die is cast
but in a country worshiping grandiose greed
Caesar and mammon are the twin masters’ creeds

CLOSING

Yes, they package and trades things invisible
insulated from the fickle ol’ bear and bull
insured from calamity by the full faith and credit
of the ordinary folk who will never ever get it
they’re simply too big to fail or take down
they’re America’s terrorists, they own your town
salute and subjugate to the new holy crown

Johnny Spillane

Got to have at least one olde Irish ditty in the repertoire.

Johnny Spillane be my name
I’m neither of fortune or fame
but with my able hardy back
I climbed out of the potato sack
and made a family and a living

Life was bleak in County Cork
me the twelfth arrival of the stork
my family had neither land
nor any opportunity at hand
so I shipped off to Ameri-cay

Having no papers or money
oh, that land of milk and honey
she was mighty, mighty harsh
it being ‘no dogs and no Irish’
so I did what I had to do

Getting off that bottom rung
was no sweet sung song
the dollars and coins were sweated
as I obeyed and marionetted
biding my time all the while

Then I caught me a lucky break
an offer from a Mallow rake
to supply the needed muscle
enforcing his wayward hustle
and my pockets began to fill

Now, I sit behind a desk
others working at my behest
a society respected man
who started with nary a plan
blessed, if there be a God

My past, I keep it well hidden
when I was doing others’ bidding
for no one would ever believe
what I did so I could achieve
and drag myself out of the gutter

Now I’m acting like the Cromwell Brits
it gives my elderly parents fits
scorning the powerless once like me
though they’re not truly a threat as I see
all they want is their dreams to be

Settling into Wendell Berry’s “Enriching the Earth” Bliss

I grew up on a family farm so many years ago
putting seeds into soil, the planting cycle ruled our life
harvest time the payoff but only if God graced our crop
but I ran away at my first chance, taking me a city wife

We were kids, unprepared to be bigger than our age
it failed ’cause I didn’t care which way the wind blew
then Uncle Sam asked me “wanna be in my family?”
not knowing much of nothing, I upped to start anew

I called my Daddy, telling him I was now a GI Joe
he was surprised I had chosen such a row to hoe
one of taking orders and being at others’ command
but with clarity of kill or be, it’s just you and your foe

So I settled in for 20, a long and stagnant run
a time of chasin’ women, tryin’ somehow to connect
always knowing I was bound to beat myself
living out the ancient lifelong birth defect

Now I’m out and as purposeless as my younger days
more pillar to post rambling, just like I was before
but I’m wiser of late on the basis of some written words
a book loaned, a poem read, a striking at my core

So I’m heading back home to work on the family farm
Dad needs some help, what with his older, slower ways
the tiller and the tractor faintly pulling at my memory
furrows in the fields and now spread all across his face

What I’ve come to see is a connection blessed be
the farmer and land being bonded in seasonal symmetry
connected to one another in a way I couldn’t see before
it’s a thread of timeless truth woven out of viability

Mother Nature, some call her a most fickle mistress
but so much less than any bastard land dominionist
I’ll hook my wagon to her and be grateful for the ride
aware of what my head and heart so heedlessly missed

Secular Alleluia

Would it be north of the Ganges?
Or south of the Pecos?
As three Sisters of the Wisdom sprouted out of Gal-veston
Their destination?
Well, they never were much into following, directions or otherwise
For anyplace was now truly their place
Or soon would be
Paris, Texas equaling Paris, France in the larger cosmos

These daughters of the American Revelation had quieted their internal fires
No more emulation of The Furies
Not that they would ever go gently into any night, good or bad.
Their newly adopted modus operandi:
Polish their rough edges of survival,
Continue seeking truths despite its varieties and beckoning detours
Solve the conundrum why karma is always a bitch and never a bastard.

After persuading the Four Horseman to turn the other cheek
Thereby choosing instead Win-Win, Peace, Cornucopia and Everlasting Life
The trio entered the modest state of Whimsy, population: depends on the time of day
A few residents milled about.
One, a mangy man adorned with a carpenter belt crossed the road
He began distributing cards reading “I build bridges, not walls.”
Loaded down with paper files of a sort, another male approached and asked
“where might be the court of public opinion?”
Over in the corner cafe, the literati argued fervently over the divinity of the Brothers Grimm versus the Sisters Bronte,
It was not Kansas. More like a Bohemian rhapsody

One street over, the wise ones noticed a burned out hulk bobbing out in the water
A gnarled man stood before them
He said, “I am Noah and some say I failed miserably
I faithfully acquired two of each but with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ how was I to know?
Nowadays, I meander about awaiting further instruction, grabbing thunder in order to quiet the constellations.”

Suddenly, a bolt of lightning exploded in the sky,
resurrecting scarred voices to the threesome
prayers unrecorded in formal history books,
plaintive outbursts from humanity’s collective unconscious,
debts of horror neither dollars nor words could repay or repair
all burdens borne by the innocent throughout the ages.

This was followed by the appearance of a wagon train
It emitted a vibration of cosmic energy
A townsperson mouthed “It’s truth or consequences time”
But what did that mean?
Call it a reckoning:
Those exhibiting predatory predilection
secular or otherwise
would be rendered into a void
a suspension into ever-present miasma
before eventually returning as those they harm
unless and until getting right with the purpose of life.

Facing the wagons, the women spoke in harmony:
“There is no glory in bombs bursting in air or any rockets’ red glare.
For this we know, the very hard way.
We have heard you are of true emancipation.
and not another corrosive ball and chain that poisons the magic.”

There was no audible response.
The crocuses silently continued their dawn-to-dusk interpretive ballet
Caterpillars quietly sang and butterflies winged it
The wise trio continued: “What guides us?
Enlightenment as a springboard towards grace”

All remained silent
Finally a puff of white smoke emerged from the lead wagon
The women said “yes, we were once but now are not who you seek”
That they weren’t.
Because, nevertheless, they had persisted.