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Clip: New Paul Muldoon poem directed to Warren Zevon

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  • Carl Z.
    Sillyhow Stride Paul Muldoon I I want you to tell me if, on Grammy night, you didn t get one
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 21, 2006

      Sillyhow Stride
      Paul Muldoon


      I want you to tell me if, on Grammy night, you didn't get one hell of a kick
      out of all those bling-it-ons in their bullet-proof broughams,
      all those line-managers who couldn't manage a line of coke,

      all those Barmecides offering beakers of barm –
      if you didn't get a kick out of being as incongruous
      there as John Donne at a Junior Prom.

      Two graves must hide, Warren, thine and mine corse
      who, on the day we met, happened
      also to meet an individual dragging a full-length cross

      along 42nd Street and kept mum, each earning extra Brownie points
      for letting that cup pass. The alcoholic
      knows that to enter in these bonds

      is to be free, yeah right. The young John Donne who sets a Glock
      on his dish in the cafeteria
      knows that, even as he plots to clean some A&R man's clock,

      his muse on dromedary
      trots to the Indias of spice and mine
      and the Parsi Towers of Silence, even as he buses his tray

      with its half-eaten dish of beef chow mein
      to the bus-station, he's already gone half-way to meet the Space Lab.
      The *Space* Lab (italics mine),

      where you worked on how many mint juleps
      it takes to make a hangover
      while playing piano for all those schlubs you could eclipse

      and cloud with a wink. I long to talk to some old lover's
      ghost about the night after night you tipped the scales
      for the Everly Brothers,

      Frank and Jesse, while learning to inhale
      through a French inhaler like a child soldier from the Ivory Coast
      learning to parch a locust on a machete, a child soldier who would e-mail

      you, at your request,
      a copy of "Death Be Not Proud", a child soldier who would hi-lite
      a locust with a flame. If your grave be broke up again some second guest

      to entertain, let it serve as hallowed
      ground where those young shavers
      from the Ivory Coast may find their careers, as you found yours, on hold,

      where Tim McGraw and OutKast, not to speak of those underachievers
      who don a black hat or a goatee
      as a computer screen dons a screen-saver

      or the Princeton sky its seventeen-year cicadas,
      will find themselves on hold. You who went searching for a true, plain heart
      as an unreconstructed renegade

      must have come to believe, with Frank and Jesse, no hate could hurt
      our bodies like our love. Another low-down
      dirty shame . . . To wicked spirits horrid

      shapes assigned . . . Every nickel nudging the nickelodeon.
      O wrangling schools . . . O wrangling schools that search what fire
      shall burn this world, had none the wit to smell Izaak Walton

      pressing down on Donne's funeral pyre,
      yeah right, to smell the locust parched by that Ivory Coast subaltern,
      had none the wit unto this knowledge to aspire,

      that this your fever, the fever that still turns
      the turntable, might be it? For every turn, like every tuning, is open,
      every thorn a durian,

      every "bin" a "ben"
      on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Such a pilgrimage were sweet,
      Warren, barreling down the autobahn

      through West Hollywood
      in your little black Corvette (part-barge,
      part hermaphrodite brig), our eyes set not on the noted weed

      but the noted seaweed of Nobu Matsuhisa. Those child soldiers who parch
      a locust on a machete while tending a .50 caliber
      Browning with a dodgy breech

      will know how the blood labors
      to beget Matsuhisa-san's seared toro. At the winter solstice, as I filed
      past a band of ticket-scalpers

      who would my ruined fortune flout
      at Madison Square Garden, I glimpsed a man in a Tibetan
      cap, nay-saying a flute,

      whom I took at first to be an older Brian Jones, what with his flipping a butane
      lighter in my face and saying, "I shall be made thy music . . ."
      At that very moment, quite unbidden,

      the ghost of Minoru Yamasaki
      (who had trailed me from the bar at Nobu) exhorted me to "Turn them speakers
      up full blast now Lucies, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks,

      is sunk so low as my Twin Towers . . .". Brian Jones's patent winkle-pickers
      reflected a patent sky. "All strange wonders that befell
      me while the rest of them recorded Beggars

      Banquet and I was sunk so low in Twickenham, lovers coming with crystal vials
      to take my tears . . .". "I'll do my crying in the rain
      with Don and Phil,"

      said Yamasaki-san, "I'll do my crying with Frank and Jesse waiting for
      a train . . .
      Those lines you wrote about the blood-bath
      at my Twin Towers, about the sky being full of carrion,

      those were my Twin Towers, right?" Brian, meanwhile, continued to puff
      on the flute as if he were indeed corporeal,
      as if he were no less substantial than the elder-pith

      nay on which he played a hurry home early
      version of "Walk Right Back", the "Walk Right Back"
      you yourself had played night after night with Frank and Jesse Everly.


      I knelt beside my sister's bed, Warren, the valleys and the peaks
      of the EKGs, the crepusculine X-rays,
      the out-of-date blister-packs

      discarded by those child soldiers from the Ivory Coast or Zaire,
      and couldn't think that she had sunk so low
      she might not make the anniversary

      of our mother's death from this same cancer, this same quick, quick, slow
      conversion of manna to gall
      from which she died thirty years ago. I knelt and adjusted the sillyhow

      of her oxygen mask, its vinyl caul
      unlikely now to save Maureen from drowning in her own spit.
      I thought of how the wrangling schools

      need look no further than her bed
      to find what fire shall burn this world – or that heaven
      which "is one with" this world – to find how gold to airy thinness beat

      may crinkle like cellophane
      in a flame, like cellophane or the flimmerings of gauze
      by which a needle is held fast in a vein.

      So break off, Warren, break off this last lamenting kiss
      as Christ broke with Iscariot
      and gave himself to those loosey-goosey

      Whisky A Go Going mint julep- and margarita-
      and gimlet-grinders, those gin fizz-
      iognomists. My first guitar, a Cort, and my first amp, a Crate,

      I myself had tried to push through a Fuzz Face
      or some shit-kicking stomp box
      till I blew every fuse

      in Central New Jersey. At the autumnal equinox
      as on St Lucies when sunbeams in the east are spread
      I'd pretend the Crate was a Vox

      AC-50 Super Twin. I was playing support
      for some star in the unchangeable firmament
      in which the flesh, Warren, is merely a bruise on the spirit,

      a warm-up for the main event
      as the hymnal ushers in the honky-tonk
      or the oxygen tent

      raises the curtain on the oxygen mask. How well you knew that dank
      spot on the outskirts
      of Jerusalem where the kids still squeeze between the tanks

      to suck the life out of a cigarette,
      the maple-bud in spring like something coming to a head,
      some pill that can't be sugared,

      another hit
      of hooch or horse that double-ties the subtile knot
      to which we've paid so little heed

      all those years of running amuck in Kent.
      Go tell court-huntsmen that the oxygen-masked King will ride
      ten thousand days and nights

      on a stride piano, yeah right,
      through the hell in which Ignatius of "Ignatius His Conclave"
      was strung out on Mandrax and mandrake root,

      ten thousand nights of the "chemical life"
      (as Auden styled it, turning the speakers up full blast),
      the "chemical life" that gives way to ten thousand days of rehab and golf

      in the afternoon, televangelists,
      push up and bench press with Buddhist and Parsi,
      ten thousand days after which you realized

      the flesh is indeed no more than a bruise
      on the spirit. The werewolf with the Japanese menu in his hand,
      keen as he was to show his prowess

      with the chopsticks, realized it ain't
      that pretty, ain't that pretty at all
      to be completely wasted when you're testing your chops, hint hint,

      on a Gibson Les Paul
      overdriven through a Fender Vibratone,
      ain't that pretty to crawl

      to Ensenada for methadone.
      Were we not weaned till then from Mandrax and mandrake
      or snorted we in the seven sleepers' den

      a line of coke, or wore long sleeves to cover the wreak
      of injecting diacetylmorphine?
      I was playing a Fender through a Marshall rig

      that was so massively overdriven
      I couldn't hear the phone ring, didn't hear that excitable boy
      extol the virtues of Peruvian

      over Bolivian marching powder, that excitable hula-hula boy,
      the Jackson Browne sound-alike,
      who waited on us in Nobu (Nobu or Koi?)

      where the fishionistas (sic) walked the catwalk
      for as long as they could manage a line
      of coke with their sushi deluxe,

      for as long as they were able for the baby abalone
      with garlic sauce. We watched those two parascenders parascend
      off Malibu like two true, plain

      hearts who struggle to fend
      off the great crash – two true, plain hearts like yourself and Maureen
      who struggled to fend off the great crash that has us end

      where we began, all strung out on heroin
      on the outskirts of La Caldera,
      our last few grains of heroin-ash stashed in a well-wrought urn.


      I want you to tell me, Warren, if you didn't watch those two hang-gliders
      and think of the individual we saw drag
      his full-length cross through the under-the-counter-culture

      of 42nd Street? 42nd or Canal? A certain individual, whatreck,
      who might easily have taken in a 4 a.m. show at the Clark and got to grips
      with the usherette's leg in the dark,

      who might have recognized the usherette for a certain demirep
      who'd registered her domain
      in the Adelphi, having already learned the ropes

      from the old bluesmen
      who played in the Blue Note. That must have been your first brush
      with greatness, in Chicago, before the mean

      streets of LA where your Moses met the bulrush
      of Stravinsky and every chord became a cordon sanitaire
      against the bum's rush

      your Russian Jewish father had given you in Culver and Century
      Cities, your G major seeing his G major
      in gloves-off gambling, and though music did in the center

      sit right through that Wanderjahre
      with Stravinsky, I'm certain it would also lean and hearken
      after the jubilation and the jeers

      of the boxing ring in which your father took on some cocksure Puerto Rican,
      in which every Baby Grand cried out for a Crybaby
      and the Everlasting Life we bargain

      for was invented by some record company Pooh-Bah
      who has forgotten, in the midst of things,
      that every operation's mom-and-pop,

      your Scottish Mormon mother teaching you the right swing
      against your father's left, your common
      G on the Chickering

      sounding against the G-men
      who plagued him about that pyramid scheme he set up in the Faeroes
      with Mr Cambio and Mr Gombeen.

      I want you to tell me if grief, brought to numbers, cannot be so fierce,
      pace Donne's sales pitch,
      for he tames, that fetters it in verse,
      throwing up a last ditch
      against the mounted sorrows, for I have more, Warren, I have more,
      more as an even flame two hearts did touch

      and left us mere
      philosophers whose blood still labors to beget
      child-soldiers toasting locust S'mores,

      the A&R men lining their pockets
      while Roland battled the Bantu to their knees,
      the Bantu who boogie-woogied

      with Saint Ignatius
      through their post traumatic stress disorder,
      the Les Paul pushed through a Pignose

      like a, yeah right, Rotorooter
      through a sewage line, the A&R men taking the mazuma
      and crossing the border

      to load up on sashimi
      with Yamasaki-san, a headless Childe Roland
      coming to his dark twin Towers of Silence, zoom zoom,

      those Towers the Parsis still delineate
      as scaffolds for sky-burial, a quorum
      of vultures letting their time-chastened lant

      fall to their knees as they hold on like grim
      death to the bellied-up Brian Jones, their office indulgently to fit
      actives to passives in the doldrums

      of the swimming-pool, the fishionistas (qv) with their food fads
      having nothing on these rare
      birds that divide

      the spoils, Warren, these rare
      birds that divide the spoils
      with the gasbag, gobshite, gumptionless A&R

      men who couldn't tell a hollow-body Les Paul with double-coil
      pickups pushed through a Princeton Reverb
      from a slab of London broil

      an excitable boy might rub
      all over his chest, the vultures working piecemeal
      at his chest like the chest on which a Russian Jewish cardsharp

      and a Scottish Mormon broke the seal
      as surely as one VIP opening her bosom made one Viper Room
      an everywhere, every Glock sighing for a glockenspiel,

      every frame a freeze-frame
      of two alcoholics barreling down to Ensenada
      in a little black Corvette, vroom vroom,

      for Diet, yeah right, Diet Mountain Dew,
      that individual carrying his cross knowing the flesh is a callus
      on the spirit as surely as you knew the mesotheliomata

      on both lungs meant the situation was lose-lose,
      every full-length cross-carrier almost certainly up to some sort of high jinks
      else a great Prince in prison lies,

      lies belly-up on a Space Lab scaffold where the turkey buzzards pink
      Matsuhisa-san's seared toro,
      turkey buzzards waiting for you to eclipse and cloud them with a wink

      as they hold out their wings and of the sun his working vigor borrow
      before they parascend through the Viper Room or the Whiskey A Go Go,
      each within its own "cleansing breeze", its own cathartes aura.

      Warren Zevon, born in Chicago in 1947, was a writer and performer of
      rock songs with a satirical streak. In the early 1970s he worked as
      musical director to the Everly Brothers, but gained success in his own
      right after moving to Los Angeles; his "breakthrough" album, Excitable
      Boy (1978), included the worldwide hit "Werewolves of London" and
      "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner". Addiction problems affected his
      career in the 1980s. Latterly he acted as musical co-ordinator to the
      Rock Bottom Remainders, a band of writers, including Stephen King and
      Amy Tan, who performed at book fairs and like events. He died of
      mesotheliomia in September 2003.
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