I saw John Prine at Berkley Performance Center in Boston quite a few years back. It was his first tour after having survived a run-in with cancer (his first of two).
He was just learning a new voice, the new delivery necessary. His band was just a stripped down affair: himself on guitar and (damaged) vocal, a stand up bass, and a young man playing electric guitar leads (twangy country licks and fills mostly). His first set was a lot of new material off a latest album. He had records to sell. The vibe was “brave-and-bawdy-humor-from-the bloodied-but-unbowed.”
There was an…
April Fool’s Day
My mind wanders as I struggle
to read another difficult page.
I’ve not grasped design or intention,
only gathered a spirit
itself not quite decided on the meaning
of certain facts, the content
of a pants pocket, what
of the city is illuminated at dawn
tears, or I should say —emotive sounds
that could be allowing laughter,
spasm, mortality, bliss,
I turn the page nevertheless
to the next
and find one irrefutably tender expression
and remember why I read
and am glad of
another day, even as it rains.
That day the war began
I was on a radio station soundstage.
It wasn’t just me. There were a bunch of us
there to put on some kind of show.
This was a station that actually played folk music.
I don’t remember the specifics of the broadcast —
the word ‘showcase’ vaguely comes to mind.
We were ‘on air’ — I think we were about to sing
some rousing chorus finale for a cause, a worthwhile cause.
The man who’d put it all together had some ‘in’
with the station. He had some sense…
I was asked to provide instruction,
told it didn’t matter on what;
this assignment was posed to me with the assumption
obvious that I am expert in something, anything
and it occurs to me that I am not.
Would it be useful if I were to explain to you
how I came to this conclusion? I think I can do that.
My father used tell me he would much rather
employ a clever lazy man
than an energetic numbskull. Given the choice. …
Forty days and forty nights —
it’s important to stipulate the nights
involved; those forty years the tribe
wandered, forty days the desert fast.
Forty years ago now, I remember
John Lennon was killed. He was forty years old.
And that didn’t seem young at the time, not to me.
I wasn’t yet twenty, let alone twice twenty
and forty-year-old rock stars weren’t much use
once they got to that age, songs about their past.
Still we gathered on the quadrangle that night;
candles stabbed through paper plates and lit —
pragmatic votives. Some wanted…