Friday, August 27

poem to joannie

Joan Baez in Concert, Part 2 (liner notes)
by bob dylan

In my youngest years I used t' kneel
By my aunt's house on a railroad field
An' yank the grass outa the ground
An' rip savagely at its roots
An' pass the hours countin' strands
An' stains a green grew on my hands
As I waited till I heard the sound
A the iron ore cars rollin' down
The tracks'd hum an' I'd bite my lip
An' hold my grip as the whistle whined
Crouchin' low as the engine growled
I'd shyly wave t' the throttle man
An' count the cars as they rolled past
But when the echo faded in the day
An' I understood the train was gone
It's then that my eyes'd turn
Back t' my hands with stains a green
That lined my palms like blood that tells
I'd taken an' not given in return
But glancin' back t' the empty patch
Where the ground was turned upside down
An' the roots lay dead beside the tree
I'd say "how can this bother me"
Or "I'm sure the grass don' give a damn
Anyway it'll grow again an'
What's a patch a grass anyhow"
An' I'd wipe my hand t' wash the stain
An' fling a rock across the track
With the echo a the railroad train
Hangin' heavy like a thunder cloud
In the dawn a t'morrow's rain
An' I asked myself t' be my friend
An' I walked my road like a frightened fox
An' I sung my song like a demon child
With a kick an' a curse
From inside my mother's womb -

In later years although still young
My head swung heavy with windin' curves
An' a mixed - up path revolved an' stung
Within the boundaries a my youth
'Til at last I backed so far away
From the world's walls an' friendless games
That I did not have a word t' say
T' anyone who'd meet my eyes
An' I locked myself an' lost the key
An let the symbols take their shape
An' form a foe for me t' fight
T' lash my tongue an' rebel against
An' spit at strong with vomit words
But I learned t' choose my idols well
T' be my voice an' tell my tale
An' help me fight my phantom brawl
An' my first idol was Hank Williams
For he sang about the railroad lines
An' the iron bars an' rattlin' wheels
Left no doubt that they were real
An' my first symbol was the word "beautiful"
For the railroad lines were not beautiful
They were smoky black an' gutter - colored
An' filled with stink an' soot an' dust
An' I'd judge beauty with these rules
An' accept it only 'f it was ugly
An' 'f I could touch it with my hand
For it's only then I'd understand
An' say "yeah this's real"
An' I walked my road an' sung my song
Like a saddened clown
In the circus a my own world - -

In later times my idols fell
For I learned that they were only men

An' had reasons for their deeds
'F which weren't mine not at all
An' no more on them could I depend
But what I learned from each forgotten god
Was that the battlefield was mine alone
An' only I could cast me stone
An' the symbols which by now had grown
Outa shape but strong in sight
Were seen by me in a sharper light
An' the symbol "beauty" still struck my guts
But now with more a shameful sound
An' I rebelled twice as hard an' ten times as proud
An' I walked my road an' sung my song
Like an arch criminal who'd done no wrong
An' committed no crime but was screamin' through the bars
A someone else's prison - -

Later yet in New York town
On my own terms I said with age
"The only beauty's in the cracks an' curbs
Clothed in robes a dust an' grime"
An' I searched for it in every hole

An' jumped head - on t' meet its breast
An' whispered tunes into its ear
An' kissed its mouth an' held its waist
An' in its body swum around
An' on its belly passed out cold
An' like a blind lover bold in flight
I shouted from inside my wounds
"The voice t' speak for me an' mine
Is the hard filthy gutter sound
For it's only this that I can touch
An' the only beauty I can feel"
An' I dove back in by my own choice
T' feed my skin a hungry holes
An' rejected every other voice
An' I walked my road an' sung my song
Like a lonesome king
Standin' in the fury a the queen's garden
Starin' into
A shallow grave - -

Time traveled an' faces passed
An' many times thoughts t' me were taught
By names an' heads too many t' count
That touched my path an' soon were gone
But some stayed on t' remain as friends
An' though each is first an' none is best
It is at this time I speak 'f one
Who proved t' me that boys still grow
A girl I met on common ground
Who like me strummed lonesome tunes
With a "lovely voice" so I first heard
"A thing a beauty" people said
"Wondrous sounds" writers wrote
"I hate that kind a sound" said I
"The only beauty's ugly, man
The crackin' shakin' breakin' sounds're
The only beauty I understand"

So between our tongues there was a bar
An' though we talked a the world's fears
An' at the same jokes loudly laughed
An' held our eyes at the same aim
When I saw she was set t' sing
A fence a deafness with a bullet's speed
Sprang up like a protectin' glass
Outside the linin' a my ears
An' I talked loud inside my head
As a double shield against the sounds
"Ain't no voice but an ugly voice
A the rest I don' give a damn
'F I can't feel it with my hand
Then don' wish me t' understand
But I'll wait though 'til yer song is done
'Cause there's something about yuh
But I don' know what"

An' I walked my road an' sung my song
Like a scared poet
Walkin' on the shore
Kickin' driftwood with my shadow
Afraid a the sea - -

In a crusin' car I heard her tell
About the childhood hours she spent
As a little girl in an Arab land
An' she told me 'f the dogs she saw
Slaughtered wholly on the street
An' I learned 'f how the people'd laugh
As they beat the gentle dogs t' death

Through a child's eyes who tried an' failed
T' hide one dog inside her house
An' I turned my head without a word
An' coldly stared out t' the road
An' with the wind hittin' half my face
My memory creeped as they highway rolled
Back if not but for a flash
T' the empty patch a grass that died
About the same time a dog was hid
An' that guilty feelin' sprang again
Not over the roots I'd pulled
But over she who saw the dogs get killed
An' I said it softly underneath my breath
"Yuh oughta listen t' her voice ...
Maybe somethin's in the sound ...
Ah but what could she care anyway
Kill them thoughts yes"> they ain't no good
Only ugly's understood."

An' I stuck my head out in the wind
An' let the breeze blow the words
Outa my breath as a truck roared by
An' almost blew us off the road
An' at the time I had no song t' sing - -

In Woodstock at a painter's house
With friends scattered 'round the room
An' she talkin' from a chair
An' me crosslegged on the rug
I lit a cigarette an' laughed
An' gulped light red wine an' lost
Every shakin' vein that dwelled
Within the roots a my dancin' heart
An' the room it whirled an' twirled an' sailed
Without one fence standin' guard
When all at once the silent air
Split open from her soundin' voice
Without no warnin' from her lips
An' by instinct my blood reversed
An' I shook an' started reachin' for
That wall that was supposed t' fall
But my restin' nerves weren't restless now
An' this time they wouldn't jump
"Let her voice ring out," they cried
"We're too tired t' stop 'er sing"
Which shattered all the rules I owned
An' left me puzzled without no choice
'Cept t' listen t' her voice

An' when I leaned upon my elbows bare
That limply held my body up
I felt my face freeze t' the bone
An' my mouth like ice or solid stone
Could not've moved 'f called upon
An' the time like velvet floated by
Until with hunger pains it cried
"Don' stop singing ... sing again"
An' like others who have taught me well
Not about themselves but me

She laughed out loud as 'f t' know
That the bars between us busted down
An' I laughed almost an insane laugh
An' aimed it at the ceiling walls
When I realized the command I called
An' my elbows folded under me
An' my head lay back upon the floor
An' my shaky nerves went floatin' free
But I memorized the words t' write
For another time in t'morrow's dawn
An' held close unchallenged dreams
As I passed out somewheres in the night - -

I did not begin t' touch
'Til I finally felt what wasn't there
Oh how feebly foolish small an' sad
'F me t' think that beauty was
Only ugliness an' muck
When it's really jus' a magic wand
That waves an' teases at my mind
An' knows that only it can feel
An' knows that I ain't got a chance
An' fools me into thinking things
Like it's my hands that understand
Ha ha how it must laugh
At crippled ones like me who try
T' pick apart the sounds a streams
An' pluck apart the rage 'f waves
Ah but yuh won't fool me any more
For the breeze I heard in a young girl's breath
Proved true as sex an' womanhood
An' deep as the lowest depths a death
An' as strong as the weakest winds that blow
An' as long as fate an' fatherhood
An' like gypsy drums
An' Chinese gongs
An' cathedral bells
An' tones 'f chimes
It jus' held hymns 'f mystery
An' mystery's all too involved
It can't be understood or solved
By hands an' feet an' fingertips
An' it shouldn't be called by a shameful name
By those who look for answers plain
In every book 'cept themselves
Go ahead lightnin' laugh at me
Flash yer teeth
Slap yer knee
It's yer joke I agree
I'm even pointin' at myself
But it's a shame it's taken so much time

So, once more it's winter again
An' that means I'll wait 'til spring
T' ramble back t' where I kneeled
When I first heard the ore train sing
An' pulled the ground up by its roots
But this time I won't use my strength
T' pass the time yankin' grass
While I'm waitin' for the train t' sound
No next time'll be a different day
For the train might be there when I come
An' I might wait hours for the cars t' pass
An' then as the echo fades
I'll bend down an' count the strands a grass
But one thing that's bound t' be
Is that instead a pullin' at the earth
I'll jus' pet it as a friend
An' when that train engine comes near
I'll nod my head t' the big brass wheels
An' say "howdy" t' the engineer
An' yell that Joanie says hello
An' watch the train man scratch his head
An' wonder what I meant by that
An' I'll stand up an' remember when
A rock was flung by a devil child
An' I'll walk my road somewhere between
The unseen green an' the jet - black train
An' I'll sing my song like a rebel wild
For it's that I am an' can't deny
But at least I'll know not t' hurt
Not t' push
Not t' ache
An' God knows ... not t' try –

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