"Music can change the world because
it can change people.” –Bono

at the risk of sounding classic
let me spin the tale
of the time back in 1997 I lived on the road
for a year in a beat station wagon
with a bunch of mix tapes.
one of them was bootleg gold:
a pile of live-concert recordings
pinched from the gods of rock n roll,

to which I listened relentlessly
for a year criss-crossing this great land
in that beat-down automobile
fear-torn hate-drunk once-fearless heartland).
music turned up so loud my brain caught fire
the unforgettable fire
          or that is the explanation
          I gave myself for the times I looked up
and saw god flying overhead
his teeth bared in a grin my windshield
reflected, clouds caught staring.

I was young and rebelling and
I ran from the halls of cut glass and stains
out to the roofless church of the desert
out in god’s country
to the gateways of the reservations
and found
:the rot at the heart of her:
no country can thrive on the bones
of the murdered.
          oh children! dread took hold in my heart then
and I never believed in her again.

I saw she was a
recording of ancient Greece
laid over a timeworn track
of slave-ownership. if nothing else
our music tells us this:
early morning, April 4
a shot rings out in the Memphis sky
free at last, they took your life
they could not take your pride

which brings the story up to date--
just today in the usa I found myself
howling down the highway
a sane maniac doped to the gills
on the roots of rock like the old days
laying tracks across the desert like ninety
with the windows down leaving
strains of gospel in the slipstream
 I believe in the kingdom come
 all the colors will bleed into one
 bleed into one

what this means is
(I am getting around to it children
put down your smartphones and listen up):
don’t believe in the history books
don’t believe in presidents nor promises
nor pilgrims nor noble savages
nor democratic process nor any thing
said by any one who’s got a stake
in the thousand heads of the snake
that we politely call politics.

you'll never understand the singular freedom
of driving down a lost highway
no idea where you are or where you'll end up
because your way is always mapped out
a satellite overhead to keep you on track
and another one making sure you've got
the right playlist for the drive:
you're on the road
but you've got no destination
you're in the mud
in the maze of her imagination

I neglected my devices today
thought about turning simply south
and crossing a border
and then another border, and another
until I reached an ocean
and then crossing it
to a place I'd never be found.

instead I took that drive
rolling up 500 miles of asphalt wind & rain
and smoking it all,
a cigarette of blame:
with or without you america
I am lunging at the chains
in an aborted diaspora
running outta room on a road
that is (for
now) still
of checkpoints, walls, militia
(yes I’m still runnin’)
choking on the lies that’ll hurl us
         back/ass/ward a century.

(an aside:not that they haven't already
not that we haven’t already
in these past four centuries
fucked it up so righteously
they can see the fires burning all the way
from across the water:
you plant a demon seed
you raise a flower of fire
see them burning crosses
see the flames higher and higher)

it’s coming back (what? you ask
picking up your thread of texts
as if bored; and I see you are)but
it’s coming back, can you hear it?
only the rattle and hum

is so much quieter now
just the whirring and the clicking
the tap-tap-tapping of keyboards
         that decides it all
         who is pop and who is not
         who gets the vote and who
         loses it all.
         quick strokes of keys that aim the mob    
         in the right or the left direction
         that control the war games
         where real lives are lost
but they are on-screen lives
mere numbers anymore
in the brave new war:
line up those fighter planes
launch the bombers into the air
and the populace keeps mum
and the populace stays numb.

I’m glad I did that road trip
shoulda tracked down the bootlegger
and asked him for more
but back then I paid for every album I owned
except that sweetly-made lost-forever mix tape.

I told myself the rock gods could afford it
         like prometheus:one
         stolen gift.

they are going now, those gods
the architects of sound
as if making room for the silence
of a drop-jawed populace.
if we could see it from space
I imagine there would be this
burning comet-tail spinning out
from earth: the soul of music
coming undone
like the thread of a sweater
pulled at high speed.

but they left a message for me
when I got home tonight:
a bootlegged copy of an ancient script
passed so many times
around the fires of our ancestors
it has worn a track in my brain.
         it said:
         this land is now your land
         you had better take a stand
         stay here and fight
         stay here and write
         it said:
one heart
          one hope
          one love*

*all italics taken from U2 song lyrics


  1. Here is a link to a page where you can download the concert from 6-11-92 Stockholm. Enjoy.!collapse-audio

    1. Listening to it right now and it's like being there. Thank you.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts