Monday, October 24, 2011

Old Flames VI: Hammers & Miles

All I wanted to hear was Peter, Paul & Mary's "If I Had A Hammer" or The Journeymen's "500 Miles." Marching through the swamps and meadows, I shed my clothes to be a better man here in the new west. No knives in my pockets, no powder in my nails, I arrived to be greeted by sunshine and soul songs in countryside. Lord, why couldn't I go back home?

Even in this heaven, even in this messiahless land of washboard words and stick clapping, we are only praying away the spirits of Olde English Rule. Bathe me in the river to make me a moralless man. Whisper love letters to the wind and don't pay the government. Harmony came too softly, lovingly rooting itself in American folklore. We all read it, but we never got the anthems tattooed.

Barrel-chested men stand at the cliffs singing sailor songs for dead mates. God buried them at the bottom of the ocean for the sins of drinking buddies. All desolate friends find themselves in churches when the dearly departed catch the last train home. But after two beers and a handful of songs on guitar, we'll all sniff the gunpowder in our broken fingers, wrecked cracking dry by godless hands. Working the railway or the highway, sweating my guts clean for a savior who won't show, this has always been the murderous lullaby.

Here, a man swings from a tree, and it's up to the writers tell you once they decide if the man is alive or dead. Could be the end of the line noose, could be the childhood tire swing. All I know is I'm miles away from home with just a hammer, so either I build stages or gallows. I can swing my tool in the daylight sprites of wayward youth, as I come down on the nails like I was sealing shut the coffin for the last vampire on the west coast.

In the distance, I hear a train and I grin my dirty pale coating, because I know the right kid got outta the country. We'll watch each other shrink in the distance until we see each other as tycoons. We'll compare our hearts like egos and grind our groin slowly. We are men after all. Only gods for a summer evening, we think. What a long ago waste we missed. Put your arm around me, old friend. I want to see our youth and it'll take everything we both have.

I'll forever be away from home, you know. I'll always have the farmland in my red skillet heart, but I'll always have skyscrapers in my diamond sky eyes. Tender and brash, I'll take my grass stains and drinking problems home when the moon comes to set. Just let me see the coast. Just let me breathe the mist and watch the gulls dive. Let me hear the echoes of rocky beaches and the rolling waves of teenage romance.

Let me start over, for I have doors to open and windows to close. Why do last hope criminals get redeemed when I can't do anything about regrets as a god-fearing realist? This is the chain gang as a yuppie boardroom. All men in suits sing the anthems of dead sailors anyway, you see. From the peak of god to the peaks of man come the afternoon heartache, all watching the sun from mirrors in their heartless rooms.

So, we turned on the music and started laughing. Nothing hurt. Nothing came. We just painted a future for the kids we'd have after the shrugs and giggles got out of our system. Then we became husbands and wives. We became kids all over. We just got the money we needed for our big, big plans. Honey, I've loved you since I was a kid. I just didn't know the right name to write in my journal. But I knew you. I talked about you constantly. I told them you'd come. I believed you'd come. I watched all those folk documentaries and foreign films, so I'd have something good to talk about on our first date. I wanted to impress you. I wanted you to get reckless with your heart. Lord knows I did.

There I go again, carving up the gospel, just so I'd have lyrics or poems to give you. I'd give you all my words if I didn't need them for pillow talk. Let me tell you these stories all over again some day with the right music. Darling, honey, you'd be in for one hell of a surprise.

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