Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gram Parsons, Jim Morrison, Rick Nelson


Goofing one day, I cobbled together three poetry portraits--more in the vein of light verse than serious poems--of three notable Rock stars I'd encountered briefly. All three had died young, been lamented by their fans, been both admired and admonished by critics, and still their influence continued; and I decided to put my two (or three) cents in, too. Rick Nelson, Jim Morrison, Gram Parsons... where might they be today had they been granted rich, full, creative lives?

My encounters with each have appeared--prose I wrote back at the time--in this blog in posts offered last year (Jim, 5/16; Gram, 6/25, 6/28, 7/1, 7/4, and 7/7; and Rick, 11/26 and 12/2). The title below refers to the old superstition that one invites serious bad luck by lighting three cigarettes or fuses or whatever with a single match...

Three on a Match

1. Gram

You rode in on a submarine from the Okechobee swamps—
a neat trick for a Harvard dropout with big-money kin
in Nu’Worluns. Still, you were a breath of hickory wind
in cities rocked by Beatle-knockoff, garage-punk chumps.

You and Chris ganged up on McGuinn’s mockingByrds,
from his wired crew flew off on your own weird wings,
a mule-mix of pseudo-hillybilly and steel guitar strings
with rock drums, Nudie flash, and stories like Haggard’s.

Your buttons had a lot of brass, buddy, and they shone
when we met, with Georgia and a love of Hank in common.
But wild horses couldn’t have held you back, then, from
that high-rolling life, all drunk, drugged, and Stoned.

G.P., you nearly made it, but you cut too wide a trail
of broken notes and promises, below the old high-lonesome.
You cashed it in like the other country boys too dumb
to do it wiser. I held a private wake with mugs of ale,

then muttered some in horror and chortled more with glee
reading of the last wild ride your battered coffin took
out to the burning desert and that funeral-pyre joke.
Man, what a hickory wind shook the old Joshua Tree!


2. Jim

Just another rider on the
Storm the barricades
Break on through the doors
Of perception Diony-
Scene of maenads gonads
Lizard King of self-love
And self-loathing lost
In your horse latitudes
And bad-ass attitudi-
Nizing riding in your
Limousine stoned with
Parsons giggling up front
Call-girl wriggling on
The writer’s lap in back
You on the jump-seat
Holding forth most poet-
Ically on tape recorder--
Answering questions
With orations musing
And amusing: both our
Armed forces fathers
Disarmed and hopeless:
Thousands of limestone
Sinkholes across Florida:
Social mores of Paris:
The mares of the moon:
Listening back and erasing
Exposing your Self in car
And yourself on stage
Coaxing bacchants to attack
To seize and rend your flesh
Scatter pieces of your bawdy
Poems out across the wastes
Of dust and rock and lizards
Basilisking in the sun…
You wanted the world then
But you couldn’t take it
So you did yourself in
With the usual excesses and
Misterioso horsefeathers
And bathing salts and oils
Of elation: “Here lies
One whose lies were wit
Less in water sank
You very much aussi
Can you say by the
Doors later life that
This is not The End?”


3. Rick

“Hi, Mom; I’m home”—millions
knew you by that quick phrase,
raised like brother David
on the weekly air-waves,

and then the 12-inch screen:
Ozzie and Harriet’s
crewcut kid, little Rickie,
pride of the hometown set.

But the song you took from Fats
let you walk away
as our own rock’n’rolling
All-American boy.

Slow tunes for little fools,
but rockabilly too,
James Burton pickin’ hot
behind your “Baby” blues.

You strode from Lonesome Town
to Rio Bravo’s sand,
from top-draw to quick-draw,
a restless wind and mind.

I believed what you said
but you disappeared, free
of both hits and misses
till that Garden Party

brought you back, country-rock
for beehive hairdo fans
who came for your old songs,
dragging their husbands—

“Rick” by then, easily the nicest
musician I met in
10 years of interviewing,
but one I’d plain forgotten.

So you played on, earning raves
as a rapist on TV,
watching your long marriage end,
enduring obscurity

till the no-reason plane-crash
sent you home justified,
finally with Valens and Holly,
echoing, “Hi, Mom, I’m dead.”


4. Three on a Match

So they fell—one death
ending in fire;
another, water;
the third, air and earth—

all of them at one
with the elements.
Now their atoms dance
in diurnal sun,

foreign substances
dissolved, reasons fled,
sound systems gone dead.
Still the music plays…

Goodbye, Rick and Gram
and holy-fool Jim;
we’ll skip church flim-flam
and burial hymn.

Let the ages roll
and the heavens rock:
there’s no going back
for you... or us all.

1 comment:

peggy said...

I adore it, thanks Ed!!