New Dylans

Once upon a time there was a songster sans compare.
He wrote the best of lyrics and had really funky hair.
He became the standard by which all others would sink
and almost instantaneously the press devoted ink
to finding his successors; all those that might arrive
to replace him in the pantheon were he to take a dive.
Dylan was that artist, and those followers were, too
each thought of as the next best wave and so were thus called “New.”

They were all fine lyricists: both thoughtful and smart
and each of them could spin a tale of detail and with heart.
Some might employ a band but their name would be on top
and most were white and most were dudes, but there the likeness stops.
All these folks would play their songs, get pinned with the label
and claim some commonality with Bob, skirting libel.
This army of writers took to airwaves and to fans
and soon were dubbed the songwriting elite: the New Dylans.

To be a New Dylan means to be compared to him
and often that risks parallels that leaves one looking dim
for Bob the First, he took the prize and wrote the book on song
with everyone else strumming merrily along.
Still they took their turn at bat, giving it their best
to be thought first an acolyte, then different from the rest.
So for a week or for a year, each was thought The Man:
The only individual to be the New Dylan.

John Prine in the sixties was praised by Bob the First
and for a Next Dylan, you could look at some much worst.
The third Wainwright followed, and he sometimes joked about
his special club inclusion; in fact he once let out
a song called “Talking New Bob Dylan,” in which he’d admit
he started like a clone, before getting to his hit
about a highway accident – though not on Sixty One.
After “Dead Skunk,” he was Loudon, not New Dylan.

So many get tagged with that oh, so special name
but often afterwards, they’ll develop their own fame
like Steve Forbert, so thoughtful! Or Dan Bern, so wry.
Or Patti Smith, who though a girl, could write just like a guy.
ome would be more literate, like Elvis Costello
and there are many more than we could ever really know
because there’s a new Dylan almost everywhere you look.
A new Dylan in your cupboard. A new Dylan for our nook.

We want these kinds of writers; in our hearts they do excel
even though in this age their records never sell.
After all, when did a Zimmerman last top the charts?
More than a decade ago! His latest singles? Farts.
Still, the open mics are filled with hopefuls every year
who try to climb his tower, conquering every fear.
Yes, to be a New Dylan, is for many still a coup.
You might say “it is all they really wanna do.”

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Recommended if you like sadism.
Recommended if you like nasal vocals.
Recommended if you like performances of varied quality.
Recommended if you like brilliance.
Recommended if you like torture.
Recommended if you like tortured brilliance.
Recommended if you like sensitivity
and strength of vision
and visions of Johanna
and million dollar bashes.

Recommended if you like popular culture
and the Great American Songbook,
later edition
and additions to your beliefs
and philosophies
and comprehension of universe.

Recommended if you like to live fully
and not dully
and want to duly appreciate what so many others have before.
Recommended if you like Springsteen
or the Byrds
or any Wainwright
or latter day Beatles
or almost anything else.

Just… recommended.

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Polly + Anna

On the plus side
I’m learning a lot about our legal system
and the metric system
and biological systems (like, say,
the melting point of flesh and
just how much heroin a human body can contain)
as well as how many no-name cornflakes
one can afford
at minimum wage.

I’m learning about pain tolerances
– both emotional and physical –
and innumerable strategies for cat-skinning
I’ve got regular meals now
and a whole lot of new associates
and I don’t have to worry about
the wear and tear on my clothes
because I rarely have to put them on.

On the positive tip
I am discovering how capable I am
under adverse conditions
(not very,
as it turns out)
and I am uncovering new depths
of cowardice
and craven behavior.
It’s pretty educational.

So really,
a lot of good can be found
under the current circumstances.
A substantial number of silver linings.
A great deal
to be thankful for.

On the minus side
this sucks.

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It’s just easier to Irish Goodbye.
No muss
no fuss
no delays in getting on the road…
it simplifies everything, really.
It’s clean.
It’s surgical, smart.

No excuses required to loved ones. No need to worry about loved ones. No loved ones.
No apologies
except maybe the next day
when you’re pestered for where you’d gone off to
asked about what happened last night
and why you disappeared
some will-o-the wisp.

There’s an elegance
a simplicity
to just leaving without a word,
a secret agent magic
that leaves you ready and able
for your next assignment:
I really cannot recommend
the Irish Goodbye enough.

Not that I necessarily
have anyone left
to offer it to.

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Travel Times

I’ve been biking.
I’ve been practicing.
I’ve been exercising
to improve my capacity and experience
and to leave me better able to play
if you ever invite me out
for a ride.

I let you know
sometime back
how much I’d enjoy the chance to sweat with you
and I assume
you’re simply waiting for the perfect time
to take me up on it
to arrive at my door
straddling your bike
and asking I’m ready to go.

I’m getting better every day
working muscles
and extending the length of time
I can stay in the saddle.
It’s getting longer
I swear.

you’ll ask me to travel with you
and oh,
the places we will go!
The mind reels
but I won’t
when I dismount.
I’ll be worthy of you soon.

All this stationary biking
I’ve done as practice
is really increasing my endurance,
which is good for other things, too

(with it,
I am far better prepared to take
and and all
of your repeated rejections).

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Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover (Completist Revision)

Paul Simon is a pretty talented guy
but he is known in song on days to tell a lie.
He sang, if you listen close, of solely three modi
back in the hit, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
See, in the chorus he just tended to repeat
and so the title’s promise ended in abject defeat.
He offered fifty but fulfilled little more than just a Tweet.
He only gave seven ways to leave your lover.
So here are forty three more ways to leave your lover.

Go screw your gal’s pal, Hal.
Get her sent to jail, Gayle.
You can stab her in the gut, Helmut,
or maybe in the eye.
Steal your girlfriend’s kidney, Sidney
and when accused ask if “you’re kiddin’ me”
Make a fool out of anyone, son
and then shit in her pie.

There are excuses as to why Simon was lazy.
After all these crazy years, that winter’s sort of hazy.
Still that track back in the seventies reached number one; amazy!
When he shorted us forty three ways to leave a lover.
For restitution of this forty-year-old fact
today’s the day to offer ways to fill in that lack
and make your lovelife go to red back from the black
so here we go: some more ways to leave your lover.

Call her cousin a dolt, Holt.
Beat her uncle with a stick, Nick.
Break all her niece’s toys, Roy
and her grandmama’s heart.
Throw her poppa off the bus, Gus,
while embezzling his daughter’s trust.
Commit anal rape, y’ape;
spread those cheeks a-part.

As this continues it may well dawn onto you,
these ways ain’t easy and I still need thirty two.
It’s possible that to Paulie some credit is well due
for providing seven ways to leave a lover.
Hm… six more verses I’ll require at this rate
and if I am too subtle, it may end up being eight.
If it takes this long to exit, how will I have time to date?
It’s hard to find fifty ways to leave a lover.

Suggest to Kate that you separate.
Get a quickie divorce, of course.
Provide forms for annulment, Trent.
Declare yourself dead.
Poison her meal, Anil
or fill her with cold steel.
Sleep in your stepson’s bed, Ned.
Ask to be unwed.

All right, it’s obviously time to step it up;
throw spaghetti at the wall to break a couple up.
If you stay, it gets real messy. If you leave, then it stays up.
Is that a way?
Hey! you could also disappear into the night.
or stop accepting calls, thus avoiding any fight.
Or go the other way; and claim her mother’s pussy’s tight
which means you’ve got thirty ways to leave your lover.

Get caught with a trick, Mick.
Move to a new place, Ace.
Start a prison term, Sherm.
Never agree.
Change the number on your phone, Cohen.
Or never leave her alone…
In her mouth be free with wee.
Leave (make like a tree)!

Jesus, it’s exhausting; this project Simon started.
At first it seemed so simple, but I see why he departed
from the process of coming up with ways that could be charted
including death as a way to leave his lover.
There’s always spindle, fold or mutilate
or never call her up, to make that second date.
Really it amounts to being what it is she’d hate.
That’s basically the best way to leave your lover.

Serve raw fish for salmonella, Stella.
Claim she beat an orphan, Jonathan.
Veto all of her bills, Will.
Make sure you’re no fun.
Just take her dad’s cash, Ash
or something else just as rash.
Invent new ways to be cruel, Lemuel
to reach fifty one.

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Sanctified Songs

You go to the open mics,
you sip from that chalice of communal art,
and eventually
you’re gonna find yourself
in the company of a couple or three songs
over and over (sigh…)
and over again.
You may like them
at first
but rest assured
familiarity will breed contempt.

First, there’s “Hallelujah,” which,
despite what you may have heard
is not written by Jeff Buckley
– though the author IS still dead.
Sometimes, you may hear the Lang version
or the Burke version
or the Shrek version
but you will hear it
in all its repeated glory,
most of all.

Creeping in second
is “Creep,” which will
at least
be played on a wider range of instruments.
The adorably twee college girl
with her three drunk friends hooting along
to her ukulele interpretation
of that semi-stalker anthem?
That’s something special
– short bus special.

“Landslide” falls much lower
on the list
but still gets thrown down
with too frequent abandon,
almost exclusively by those same twee girls
referred to above.
It’s reception never grows cold
but you’ll get older
listening to it.
It always sounds better than Stevie

And then there’s the Dylan canon.
No single song of his
beats out any of these others
but several come close.
You’ve got your “Wagon Wheel”s,
your “Rainy Day Women”s, “Lay”s,
your “Masters” and “Heaven’s Door”s
and “Watchtower”s and so many mores.
It’s exhausting, really.
Bob’s collective work
is repeated more often
than anyone else’s
by far,
most usually by earnest young men
who think they’re original
– just like their idol.
Sometimes the songs are good.
Always they elicit sighs
of sadness
from those that have heard these interpretations
It’s enough to scream,
“It ain’t me you’re singing for, babe!”
It’s too much
for even an open mic veteran to take.

“Freebird,” surprisingly,
never gets performed,
despite being requested more than any other cut
Go figure.

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The problems in the world grow greater every year.
The times, they are a’changin’, I can state with all due fear.
An idiot wind’s blowing in to the town today
and I sometimes need to ask myself if there is any way
to get through all the hurricanes and hard rains through the Fall
to arrive at Summer days and answer proudly nature’s call
to become the best that I could be; to mine own self be true.
And so I ask myself: what is it Dylan would do?

If Dylan were here he would crash and burn.
He would seek out his mentor for lessons to learn.
An asshole in his interviews, he’d tape on video
then release them to the world so his persona we would know.
He’d rarely be the same man twice, a cypher to his fans,
Dylan would deceive us, telling lies as part of plans
to always leave us guessing. Constantly we misconstrue
the way to reply to the question "What would Dylan do?"

Since Bob Dylan was discovered at the birth of the decade
that redefined our culture, countering the ways we made
our musicians into idols, our songwriters into stars,
he’s been so many people, though composed just one memoirs.
In any case, when you wonder how he’d handle it
– no matter what the "it" may be – it matters not a whit.
In film, he’s been portrayed as six, not merely one or two.
See he’d contain multitudes, is what Dylan would do.

Of the premier songsters, as the king Bob has been crowned
and his flexibility in telling stories is renowned.
His tales include his autobiography, it seems
for each story he stitches, seems to split some at the seams.
His life is inconsistent, when he tells it, week to weeks.
You can hear when Bobby’s lying; it’s whenever the guy speaks!
For a time, Robert Zimmerman denied being Jew
so it seems it really varies as to what would Dylan do.

If Dylan were around, he’d deny the things I’ve said.
He’d point to friends to verify his stories; they’d be dead.
He’d sing such social commentary, and bleat the best of songs
all of which get better when the covers come along.
He’s best being interpreted, that’s Dylan to a T.
And if you don’t like my critique, then don’t listen to me
for when asking what would Dylan do, the first on any list
is ignoring others’ comments. That’s what Dylan does the best.

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Spitsbergen is Nordic,
Norwegian,and warmer
than other countries in similar latitudes,
thanks to some midnight sun.
It is the place
where we protect
our most important seeds
in an impossibly strong fortress
so that we never lose the means
to grow

– except that the impregnable fortress
was just impregnated with inconceivable amounts
of moisture.
The seeds survived
but their protection was compromised
by unseasonable heat
and melting caps
and rising tides
and rushing meltwater
through an open door .
Is it the midnight sun
that caused the mountain top to drown,
or global warming,
or some international conspiracy?

Anyway it goes,
our seeds are threatened.
Our doomsday protection
against starvation
may be doomed at its start.

Maybe it’s time
to quit this game
out of the gate
and just admit defeat.
The world doesn’t want us.
It is done, and
perhaps, so too,
are we.

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I got back to you
as soon as I could.
The moment that we got cut off
I thought you’d had something
important to tell me.
But I got to a tunnel
just then, and
I didn’t hear the end of your thought.

I should’ve warned you when I saw the tunnel coming
– so that’s on me.
The fact that the tunnel lasted
for what seemed like an hour and a half,
that’s just poor design.
Maybe it ran through a wormhole or something.
I don’t know.

After emerging
I got attacked by what seemed to be vultures
but might have crows.
I’m not too good with birds.
I was able to fight them off
and finally race past them
but it ate up a certain amount more time.

Some swords and stallions
got in my way later that afternoon
and a couple of women offering wine
and wild beast…
there were a lot of distractions.
I can’t explain what kept me the rest of the week
but the next month had Kwanzaa
so that took me out of circulation
for a bit, to boot.

Anyway, I’m sorry
it’s taken so long
to complete the circuit.
It seemed pretty vital
what you were talking about
so I made sure to respond promptly,
but I had to move things around to make this time.
I can’t really stay on too long
so tell me what’s up
and if I can’t deal with it right away,
I’ll get back to you soon.

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