Still He Keeps Singing: “I Ride an Old Paint”

Carl Sandburg (photo by William A. Smith, from Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site)

“I am here when the cities are gone. I am here before the cities come. I nourished the lonely men on horses. I will keep the laughing men who ride iron. I am dust of men.” — from “Prairie” by Carl Sandburg Hoolihans and poolroom fights When we wrote our … → read more

Life, and Life Only: “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”

Bob Dylan (source: uncredited Facebook photo from official Bob Dylan page)

“When he was on, no one could auto-desecrate better. ‘He who is not busy being born is busy dying,’ he famously intoned in “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” and way before the aphorism became worthy of inclusion in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, he knew that inspiration was episodic, that it … → read more

There’s a train a-coming: “People Get Ready” – CwD10

Curtis Mayfield (uncredited image, source: official Mayfield Facebook page)

“I would think that a movement without music would crumble. Music picks up people’s spirits. Anytime you can get something that lifts your spirits and also speaks to the reality of your life, even the reality of oppression, and at the same time is talking about how you can really … → read more

“Won’t You Come and Sing for Me?” – CwD 9

“I feel the shadows now upon me…” I remember driving to Mt. Greylock with Pat one time, telling him about a singer I had just discovered. I said she had the kind of voice I’d like to hear on my deathbed. This meant something to me more than just that … → read more

“When I Go” – Conversations with Death 8

Dave Carter (photo by Dan Betenbender, courtesy of Tracy Grammer)

“Sometimes you wake with the feeling tone of a dream. You stay with it. There’s something there for you if you keep listening. It’s a good idea to let your dream and waking world co-exist. From the dream you get affect and image, and then you try to learn what … → read more

Carrie and Lowell: Conversations with Death 7

Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan StevensI first fell in love with Sufjan Stevens’ music in 2004; I was fifteen and a friend put “Romulus” on a mix cd. In the song, a young boy, growing up in Romulus, Michigan, tells of his distant relationship with his mother, who has moved … → read more

“The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake” – Conversations with Death – 6

Our darling wandered far away… I had an odd reaction to that recent video of the rescue of a toddler running alone down the middle of a busy Highway 101 in Oregon.  A old, favorite song popped into my head instantly – “The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake.”  It won’t … → read more

Conversations with Death: Clementine

A Sharp Turn A girl. A daughter, a sister, a lover. A prostitute. Ruby lips. Thin, delicate, pretty. Big feet. A fat girl. A clutz, a clod, a chub. A drunk girl. Drowned, lost, forgotten, betrayed. A dead girl. A corpse, a ghost, a zombie. Merciful, lustful, vengeful. Bloated, stinking. … → read more