Monday, January 30, 2006

244. The River

Brownie, you've done a heck of a job!

The lights from the bridge
on sullen dark waters,
turbidly, sluggishly flowing:
Man, you bad ol' river ....

Come down to Kansas City.
Come down with your St. Louis woman.
Let's just see what you can do.
Me and the boys will be waiting.

When I met you back in Tennessee
You lied when you told me he'd left you.
You lied through your pretty little smiles,
You lied. And once again I believed you.

Here he comes and on sloping shoulders
He carries all the miseries of Missouri:
The failed clothing stores, the sick veterans,
the too many tired and bust-out hopes.

Down around that bend by the hogspit,
That's where we lost young Clare Louise.
She'da bin fifteen last November --
Not a day goes by when I don't recall.

My great-grandaddy Luther LaBeaune
had a pencil moustache, he smoked cheroots.
He wore a tight-fitting flowery weskit,
got shot on the riverboat, aces over threes.

Huck and Jim ain't you no never mind.
Hoo, boy, you never done talk to nigras.
No sirree, you never done talk to them,
in them days you never done SEE them.

Cajun boys they ain't like you and me,
living in little old towns along the bayou.
They eat strange food, they sing strange songs,
when you walk up, goddam, they disappear.

Micks beat up on the wharfside nigras
to get they jobs, been dyin' in the swamps,
and that's what you never hear about Nyawlins,
how the slaves, black and white, they fought each other.

The lights be shining
on sullen dark waters,
sluggishly, turbidly flowing:
Man, you bad ol' river ....