1.      Ain’t Even Had My Coffee Yet

 Rooster’s in the henhouse with his feather’s all mussed

the hay-barn is burning and the milk’s gone sour

It’s harvesting time but the whole crop’s a bust

And that’s the third thunderstrike I’ve heard in the past half-hour

            Been up for three days in a drippin cold-sweat

            I called for a doctor and they sent me a vet

            I’m losing my livelihood along with a bet

            and I ain’t even had my coffee yet

 the ship’s hit an ice-berg and the radio’s down

the captain’s in the crow’s nest trying to get drunk

Nero’s somewhere fiddling, and we’re all gonna drown

somebody send an S.O.S.—we’re sunk!

            Throw out your preservers, cast wide your net

            We gonna need all the mother-lovin luck that we can get

            We’re in the middle of nowhere, and I’m all wet—

            And I ain’t even had my coffee yet

 Private detective’s in his best disguise

He’s already taken a few incriminating photographs

He’s got the evidence to prove whatever the defendant denies

He caught the guy with his secretary, takin a bath

            A lady pulls up in her ex-husband’s corvette

            As the private I.’s lighting his last cigarette

            She asks if it’s done—he says, “We’re all set—

            And I ain’t even had my coffee yet”

 Productivity’s down, and the factory’s pinched

Management doesn’t know what to do

The union fellas won’t surrender an inch

And the strike ain’t nowhere near being through

            The thing to remember is that no-one forgets

            If it’s a do-or-die matter, I say “Let’s!”

            Every time I answer the phone, it’s a brand new threat        

            And I ain’t even had my coffee yet

 Alarm clock went off first thing in the morning

Didn’t even get the paper before I heard the news

Neighbors were outside in their bathrobes quarreling

Election’s over and half the nation’s singing the blues

            Sweep the confetti from your TV sets

            Better call up your friends and forgive them their debts

            The sun’s barely up, I’m full of regrets—

            And I ain’t even had my coffee yet  

 

2.      Like That

 The way that an amputee misses his limb

After the doctor has sawn it from him

Leaving him only the scar of his skin

With which he must try to adapt

 Or the way that an arrow that’s aimed at the heart

Of some would-be lover alone in the dark

Can near and so narrowly still miss the mark

Hitting some bystander’s back

            Or the way that a jury can believe what it wants having just received all of the facts

            I miss you—I miss you—I miss you—like that

 The way that a baby cries for the breast

Of the woman who maybe has sins to confess

Whose feeling her worst when she’s doing her best

For whom smiling’s part of the act

 Or the way that a shipwreck wants to be saved

From his raft on the water where he’s drifted for days

Where he can still get a signal on his radio wave

But cannot explain where he’s at

             Or the way that a mackerel still goes for the hook, even knowing that it’s just a trap

            I want you—I want you—I want you—like that

 The way that a parachute needs to unfold

As soon as the cord is reached for and pulled

Without which there’d be nothing else to grab hold

And no time for you to react

 Or the way that a candleflame requires a wick

That isn’t too slender and isn’t too thick

If the flame isn’t going to burn out too quick

Leaving only a puddle of wax

             Or the way that an inntertube needs to be patched, or replaced when the wheel has gone flat

            I need you—I need you—I need you—Like that

 The way that a meteor dies in its birth

Destroying itself in its fall to the earth

Whose cinder is studied, given value and worth

According to what’s left in tact

 Or the way that a fine wine never expires

The way satisfaction never desires

The way I’m perpetually caught in the wires

Like some circus ring acrobat

            Or the way that an answer can be extremely precise without being at all exact

            I love you—I love you—I love you—like that

 

3.      Just In Case You Ever Change Your Mind

 Your heart is set on leaving me—What am I supposed to say?

So long, I guess the pleasure’s all been mine

There’s no sense in deceiving me—it hurts, but I’ll be okay

Wounds have a way of healing, in good time

            I spose I should be thanking you, for at least giving me a try

            I know that a good man is hard to find

Tell me that you’re going now, but don’t let’s say goodbye

Just in case you ever change your mind—

 I wouldn’t want to influence—your sterling wherewithal

Nobody knows you better than yourself

I wouldn’t know just what to do with a splintered crystal ball

But what good’s it doing resting on your shelf?

            You were burning in your eagerness, too confident to fail

            And yet the humor in the gloom you couldn’t find

So I’ll put my house in order and blaze you out a trail

Just in case you ever change your mind

 Sometimes, when it begins to rain, I think of how we met

You called me by some name that wasn’t mine

and then, as you explained to me that you meant no disrespect

you hinted that perhaps it was a sign—

            It seems like only yesterday, I remember it so clear

            It felt as though the planets had aligned

Well, Fare thee well, and take good care; if you need me, I’ll be here—

Just in case you ever change your mind

 The gavel’s fell like pistol shots, the jury has come in

At some verdict it’s presumed they have arrived

But nevermind the circumstance; we both know where we’ve been

Our love was just some trial we survived

            With the option to be merciful, you clung on to your grudge

            You said I was too rude, too unrefined

A wiser man than I once said “Don’t be so quick to judge,

just in case you ever change your mind—”

 

4.      The Hardest Thing I Ever Done (Was Easier Than Loving You)

 I done some things in my day that let me just say were a little less than easy to do

I been hard-pressed and hard-up on a hard-road with hard-luck, been hard-hearted one time or two

Troubles, trials, tribulations, tragedies I’ve had me a few

But the hardest thing I ever done was easier’n lovin you

 I believe I broke the record for the longest second-look

I’d have to check again, though, to see if it’s still in the Guinness book

The feat may sound incredible to some, but to me it ain’t nothing new

Cause the hardest thing I ever done was easier’n lovin you

             You got a way about you babe, that just don’t know when to quit

            You joined up on the losing side but defeat you just can’t admit

 I chose to do without them when fate offered me her jewels

I ate from the tree of knowledge knowing full well it was against the rules

I was sentenced to hard labor and now my freedom’s overdue

But the hardest thing I ever done was easier’n loving you

 I resisted false temptation when it advertised its bliss

I beat the devil at his own board-game in the wide open wilderness

I lashed myself upon the mainmast so I could hear the sirens coo

But the hardest thing I ever done was easier’n lovin you

             You got a way about you babe, you just don’t know when you’re wrong

            I tell you to let go of me but you just keep on hanging on—

 I made wings of wax and feathers and I flapped em towards the sun

when I was still ascending the heat went ahead and melted em

as deep into the sea I sank as high above the world I flew

but the hardest thing I ever done was easier’n lovin you

 I climbed up Jacob’s ladder just to see what I could see

I went down into the underworld to try to set my spirit free

I held the world upon my shoulders just so Atlas could use the loo

But the hardest thing I ever done was eaiser’n lovin you

             I ain’t sayin I don’t love you, or that you ain’t worth no regard

            All I’m trine to tell you babe is that sometimes lovin you is hard—

 I fought the famous hydra with nothing but a pocket knife

If it hadn’t been such slow going I might’ve gone and lost my life

For every head that I cut off, in its place three more grew

But the hardest thing I ever done was easier’n lovin you

Now I’ve heard that love is patient, and I’ve heard that love is kind

I’ve heard that love hopes and bears all things; I’ve even heard that love is blind—

But when weighed in my own experience, I know this much is true:

the hardest thing I ever done was easier’n lovin you

 

5.      Sticks and Stones

 before the panelist of scientists / I stood defending poetry

Reciting words I’d overheard / From a magician doing sorcery

falling short of proof in court / I surrendered to His Majesty

When the jester laughed, I removed his hat / As he praised me my humility

            the case dismissed from consciousness / I resumed my daily alchemy

            Sticks and stones may break your bones / But words—can change your destiny

 As battles raged—a squire’s page / Was charged with this delivery:

To spread the news his side would lose / Without help supplied immediately

On his master’s horse he wound a course / Beyond his country’s boundary

And story goes, he took to prose / And now he writes tales for posterity

                      What became of the page’s name / To this day remains a mystery                 

                      Sticks and stones may break your bones /        But words—can alter history

 Wind and fog and somewhere, God, / At the beginning of eternity,

commandingly said, “Let there be…” / And each question became a certainty

And there was light to pierce the night / Where darkness filled each cavity

An unseen jaw dispensing law / For motion and for gravity—

            And life commenced impermanence / While Death dealt with the converse

            Sticks and stones may break your bones / But words—can build a universe

 In days of youth I longed for truth  / About love especially, I was curious

But what I know now of Love’s know-how / I only learned through inexperience

Foolish tries and compromise / Convinced me love was just a hindrance

More than to win her, what I should prefer / Is to forget or return to ignorance

            “He’s mad!” you’ll say, “to feel this way—” / And I’d agree with you, regrettably

            Sticks and stones can break your bones / But words—can wound a man, irreparably

 I did my best and knew success / It seemed a painless interlude

Between two wars in which the scores / Had been irrevocably misconstrued

Once the ghosts resumed their posts / In the countries of their summoning

I spent what I’d made in the king’s parade / And departed to my homecoming

            The bridges crossed, my papers were lost, tho I wouldn’t say I lack them currently

            Sticks and stones can break your bones / But words—are like a currency

 When asked to play, I said okay / Tho in preparing, I was meticulous

And before I’d sung, the bell had rung / And I’d been announced ridiculous

And for my prize I was ostracized / And was made to sign a covenant

but once I had, I didn’t feel so bad / to entertain them would have been a punishment

            And now I’ve chewed on solitude /   So long it tastes like venison

            Sticks and stones may break your bones / But words—can be a medicine

 did a so-called crime and I paid my time / Tho the offense was considered minimal

When I got released, I thought, “I’m free, at least…” / But folks still took me for a criminal

I tried and tried my past to hide / Thought I’d escape from it eventually

But people talked and my way was blocked / Now I’m back at the penitentiary

            My freedom earned, my lesson learned / I’ll tell you what now, society—

            That sticks and stones may break your bones / But words—shape reality

 

6.      Callin It Your Job (Don’t Make It Right)

 The D.A.’s on the front porch / with the landlord behind him

Eviction notice / has been nailed to the door

Their knocking and pounding / disrupts someone calling:

“With what can I bargain when I am so poor?”

 They go in and come out / dragging a person

Old man in a bathrobe / half-naked and crine

D.A. says “I’m sorry” / but he says it smiling—

“Each man’s got his labor / and don’t I got mine?”                      

            You can call it your labor to ease your conscience

            Call it your duty if it’ll help you sleep tight

            Call it your career if you can’t tell the difference      

            But callin it your job, boss—won’t make it right

 The warden’s a bastard / he’s a stickler for details

Heaven have mercy / when he makes his patrol

If he finds so much as / a sheet that’s been wrinkled

You can bet that you’ll all spend / a night in the hole

 He says that he loves us / there’s no need to fear him

He’d prefer we reserve all / our fear for his God

But I fear whoever / does evil so easily

And thinks that he’s only / doing a job

             Chorus

 The police have shown up / in outrageous numbers

Armed in their helmets / with their nightsticks and shields

The protesters marching / are righteously singing

“we haven’t come this far / to turn back or yield”

They bring out a firehose / and turn it upon us

Transforming the marchers / into some kind of mob

Who is it you officers / swore to defend and protect?

When you put on your uniform / and made this your job?

            chorus

 The army recruiters / are down on the corner

They’re telling young kids bout / the splendors of war

They’re showing their medals / and telling their stories

I’d just like to ask them / what they’re fighting for

 Some fight cause they have to / cause they’re under fire

Cause they’re being bullied / and they don’t get a say

But some think it’s their duty / some think it’s the right thing

To blindly take orders / and collect your pay (the American Way)

            Chorus

 The judge in his tower / is looking down meanly

He’s raising his gavel / and drawing his breath

He announces the sentence / he does it routinely

“You’ve been proven guilty / and your penalty’s death”

 He won’t say he’s sorry / he hasn’t got pity

“Whatever you done, now, that’s between you and God,”

When he arrives home, the judge will sleep soundly

Assuring himself he’s just doing his job

             chorus 

 

7.      Words, Words, Words

 In 1492 Chris Columbus and his crew

Discovered folks a living in some islands to the west

He promised to be kind, but he went and changed his mind

Made most of them his slaves and put the rest of em to death         

            If I didn’t know any better I’d suppose

            Perhaps the terms of his agreement wasn’t heard, heard, heard

            But it’s a getting late—how long you wanna wait

            For you admit that the promise was just words, words, words?

 In 1838 Andrew Jackson did create

A paper sayin that the natives would receive their promised land

Made a reservation zone, drove em into Oklahome

Leaving Cherokee and chocktaw blood in the Mississippi sand

            If I didn’t know any better I’d suppose

            That the lyin simply couldn’t have endured, -dured, -dured

            But it’s a getting late—how long you wanna wait

            For you admit that the promise was just words, words, words?

 In 1864—trine to end the civil war

Mr. Lincoln signed a paper sayin all slaves would be free

Soon as he let em go—in came the Old Jim Crow

And the rest, I’m sure you know, is US history

            If I didn’t know any better, I’d suppose

            That the promise has only been deferred –ferred –ferred

            But it’s a getting late—how long you wanna wait

            Fore you admit that a promise is just words, words, words

 In August ’45—trine to keep his own alive

Harry Truman told the Japanese, “this fighting’s gotta stop,”

Any more lives bein spent, he said he would try to prevent—

Then he loaded up his atom bombs, said “Fellas, let em drop—”

            If I didn’t know—any better I’d suppose

            That the promise was always bein urged, urged, urged

            But it’s a getting late, how long you wanna wait

            Fore you admit that the promise was just words, words, words?

 In 1954, in a case called Brown v. Board

The Supreme Court said that public schools must integrate their kids

They took their time, of course, with getting it enforced

And fore anything could happen, it was like nothing ever did

            If I didn’t know any better I’d suppose

            That the ruling sounded too good to’ve occurred, -curred, -curred

            But it’s getting late, how long you gonna wait

            For you admit that the promise was just words, words, words?       

 In 1964, hungry for another war,

Lyndon Johnson said a US ship had been hit by Viet Cong

And though it was a lie, he still sent troops to die

In the name of keeping communism out of Vietnam

            If I didn’t know any better I’d suppose

            That what ain’t democratic ain’t preferred, -ferred, -ferred

            But it’s a getting late, how long you wanna wait

            For you admit that democracy’s a word, word, word

 In 1982 Ronald Regan, tride and true,

Said he’d increased public safety and on crime he waged a war

For him, tho, being safe—had to do with class and race—

Most of the folks he rounded up were young and black and poor

            If I didn’t know any better I’d suppose

            That the promise aimed to keep us all secured, -cured, -cured

            But it’s a getting late, how long you gonna wait

            For you admit that the promise was just words, words, words?

 In 1992 the war on crime and drugs just grew

Mr. Clinton said he had a plan and it would be unfurled

He built prisons left and right, filled em practically overnight

Now the US has more prisoners than any nation in the world

            If I didn’t know—any better I’d suppose

            That the lockdown was a bad dream that emerged, merged, merged

            But it’s a getting late, how long you wanna wait

            For you admit that the promise was just words, words, words?

 In 2001, weapons of mass destruction

Was the reason Mr. Bush supplied to re-invade Iraq

The nukes were never found, but the country was torn down

and US oil prices were a little lower after that

            If I didn’t know any better I’d suppose

            That the promise didn’t sound quite so absurd, -surd, -surd

            But it’s a getting late, how long you wanna wait

            For you admit that the promise was just words, words, words?

 Now this song could go on, and on and on and on

The lies my leaders told me are too numerous to name

But I’m a getting tired, my patience is expired

As we move into the future, the song will be the same

            If I didn’t know any better I’d suppose

            That a government, in all things, should be just, just, just

            But it’s a getting late, how long you wanna wait

            For you admit if it’ll be just it’ll have to be up to us?

 

8.      Grow Long Thy Hair, Samson

 Yes, there’s a storm a comin, it’s on the Times front page

With a black and white photo of some kind of giant tidal wave

On account of how everybody’s gone ahead and behaved

The street preacher’s wound-up, screaming none will be saved

 “By the pharaoh’s order,” cries the fouled referee,

“There’s a new law round here says that the curfew will be

From ten in the morning til quarter past three

Anybody outside after that’s gonna haveta answer to me!”

 you better get your name cleared, Bluebeard, fore they make you walk the plank

Better call off your watchdogs, General, fore they all pull rank

You better get your children, Mama, bow your head and give thanks

You better grow your hair long, Samson—you gonna need your strength

  You’re tween a rock and a hardplace they’re still trying to construct

When the bombs fall, Know-It-All, you better have the good sense to duck

At the rodeo, John Doe, keep your seat on that truck

and bring along your timepiece, Maurice, you gonna need some luck

 well everyone’s getting bored, but I’ve already had me a few

Better take a knee, Bruce Lee, if you need something to do

It’s a sure-thing, Sherlock, but you ain’t got a clue

Aw, get out of here, Shakespeare—nobody asked you

             Chorus

 Jumpin Jupiter, Lucifer, what’s become of your pride?

Didn’t anybody tell you that the sooth-sayer lied?

For a sheckel, Dr. Jeckyll, we can go for a ride

I’ll show you someplace remote where you can lay low and hide

 Now I’m no Houdini and I’m no Jesse James

But you’re gonna need brass keys, Ulysses, to get out of them chains

You better smell the roses, Moses, and talk some sense to these brains

Otherwise all of your guys is gonna wind up changing their trains

             Chorus

 Grow your hair long, Samson—til it’s down to your knees

            Grow your hair long, Samson—til it’s long as you please

            Grow your hair long, Samson—til it’s at full-length

            Grow your hair long, Samson—you gonna need your strength

 The doctor’s in the dentist’s chair, his tooth’s getting pulled—

Your wienereimer, Oppenheimer, has come down with a cold

I tried calling the police, the operator put me on hold

I can see your cards, Beauregard, if I were you I would fold

 The captain’s gone AWOL on some binocular tour

With a lady in sales he met at the marine supply store

When the saloonkeeper’s drunk he’ll give everyone a free pour

But you better get it while you can fore he ain’t drunk anymore

             Chorus

 Fare thee well, Rafael, I guess you done pretty good

They did their best to imitate you, but none of them could

Ahab took a stab and saw what was under the hood

Then he tried to say it in English—no one understood

 Goldilocks needs help, she’s got her hand caught in the hive

You better be heartfelt, Mrs. Roosevelt, when you write those boys’ wives

You gonna need an editor, Senator, to keep talking that jive

It’s neither heroes nor villians, it’s just the lucky survive

             Chorus

 

9.      Why, Mama?

 Who, mama, who is that great giant yonder

Who stands twenty times taller than any tree?

My child, my child, yonder’s America

They call her the Statue of Liberty

 What, mama, what is that big giant tower

That starts on the ground and disappears in the air?

My child, my child, that’s just a skyscraper

You’ll probably be seeing them round here everywhere

 What, mama, what is that long silver bullet

That’s snaking around on that bridge up above

My child, my child, that’s only the subway

We’ll be riding on that train soon enough

 Where, mama, where did you say we were going?

How long must we wait in this subway station?

My child, my child, we’re heading to Manhattan

To the US Office of Immigration

 Who, mama, who is that ragged man sleeping

There on the curb, who’s just skin and bone?

My child, my child, it’s only a hobo

Don’t point your finger, just leave him alone

 Who, mama, who is that finely dressed person

Who’s fat as a king, and only short of a crown

My child, my child, that’s a rich, wealthy banker

Get out of his way or he’ll mow you right down

 Why, mama, why are some people so hungry

Meanwhile there’s others that look rich in their clothes?

My child, my child, I don’t know the reason

I don’t have an answer, God only knows

 Who, mama, who is that man with the night-stick

And why is that other man being beaten by him?

My child, my child, that’s only the police

In America they arrest you for having dark skin

 Where, mama, where, mama—where will they take him?

will they take him to a doctor to treat his wounds and his sores?

My child, my child, they’re taking him to prison

In America that’s what they do with their poor

 Ain’t mama, ain’t, mama—ain’t this a free country?

Aren’t people here given value and worth?

My child, my child—it’s only for some folks—

There’s more prisoners here than anyplace on the earth

 Why, mama, why, mama—why did we come here?

What in the world did we leave our home for?

My child, my child—it just wasn’t safe there

Our country’s is facing genocide and war

 Here mama, here mama, here is the building

I will wait for you here, steadfast and strong

My child, my child, I’ll just be a minute

I will go and come back—it shouldn’t take long

 Why mama, why, mama—why are you crying?

Where did they tell you that we may reside?

My child, my child, they gave me no answer

But that our request to live here has been denied

 Why, mama, why can’t we live in America?

Are there too many people?  Is there not enough land?

My child, my child, it’s the people in charge here

They hate and they fear what they don’t understand

 When, mama, when will we be accepted?

When will this hatred be brought to a close?

My child, my child—I don’t have an answer

I don’t have an answer, God only knows

  

10.  You Puttem All To Shame

 You crossed a black cat’s path / when you encountered me

Somebody should have said / this here was a carnival

The only way out again’s / back through the livingroom

Which you were just driven from / on account of your destiny

You, with your vacant heart / throwing your weight around

Just like you owned the joint / or like you knew someone

Making your crass remarks / into their fold-out smiles

As all of their watches chimed / and somewhere a sailor drowned

 Tears like a jet-streamed sky / raking your made-up face

I caught a glimpse of you / inside the hallway meer

You looked like a vagabond / you looked like a stolen wife

Or what is the word for it? / you looked simply out of place

 And as the hostess rose / shouting her lover’s name

Crying for ornaments / and for a tablecloth

I saw how you fell apart / then gathered up yourself

You puttem all to shame, you puttem all to shame

            II

Just as the matador / flung off his captain’s cape

in preparation for / some kind of ritual

the astronaut cleared his throat / as if he would make a toast

then he restrained himself / with a whole roll of plumber’s tape

 “I don’t care what the bible says,” / shouted the bathroom stall

addressing the minister / distributing sacraments

Out of a purse he stole / out of the parsonage

Pardoning pilferage / at no extra charge at all

 Back at the ranch meanwhile / nobody’d moved a bone

The sheriff was flinging cards / into a hangman’s noose

The deputy watched a fly / buzzin around the room

Drew back the velvet drapes / looked out at a parking cone

 A fat lady stood and belched / saluted the flag and sang:

Somewhere a child is born / somewhere a child dies

Nobody looks at you / they don’t think you’re beautiful

But you puttem all to shame / you puttem all to shame

             You puttem all to shame, just like a needle plunging into a vein

            That carries the antidote that’s full of the cure from the heart to the brain

            You puttem all to shame—

            III

Lord Alfred makes his rounds / handing out red balloons

Asking for tickets, please / saying Please Watch Your Step

Producing a handkerchief / dripping with turpentine

Peddling silverware / and stopping to smell the fumes

 The emperor’s crown’s been caught / over the mantelpiece

A bystander claimed it was / made out of mistletoe

Lonely men gathered round / waiting for girls to come

The pianist blew trombone / his requiem masterpiece

 The sofa is filling up / like it was a safety boat

With politician’s wives / and the offspring of janitors

There was a pack of dogs / I think they were Sherlock Holmes’

Charging the drawbridge doors / molesting an overcoat

 And you in your pleated skirt / looking so torn apart

How did your hair get wet? / it’s not even raining out

I could have kissed you then / you would have hated me

You puttem all to shame, you puttem all to shame

 IV

 Up at the podium / the weatherman prophesies

all bets are off this year / blaming technology

The postman has been delayed / due to the hurricane

Just then some legs walked in / in search of a centipede

 the judge entered, wig-and-all / some people stood and cheered

others threw fruit at him / others forget-me-nots

his gavel was in his hand / his sword hanging by his side

his breath smelled of bubblegum / bacon grease in his beard

 and people have asked before / what is it I see in you

I always respond to them / well isn’t it obvious?

You held a parasol / under a chandelier

You lit your cigarette / in the coals of a barbecue

 It was your corkscrew gaze / meeting my tailspin frame

that was the moment when / I knew you were the one

they were the best of theirs / you were no match for them

you put em all to shame / you puttem all to shame

             you puttem all to shame, just like a lost child that nobody claims

            whose manifest radiance is offered to everyone and then goes down the drain

 V

 serpentine pedagogues / brandishing chilled vermouth

using their intellects / as if they were hand-grenades

Sodom is burning down / there’s firetrucks everywhere

And Socrates’ dies tonight / for trying to corrupt the youth

 head like a pile of rocks / face like a punching-bag

nobody thinks I’m cute / narcissus vainly wines 

he asks the river who / is fairest of them all?

the one with the stupid hat / that looks like a launching-pad

 Mathematicians trade / stories with psychopaths

About what is possible / in the grand scheme of things

The psychopath wants to know / whether it’s feasible

The metaphysicians claim / it really just basic math

 Eventually you’re convinced / Chess is a bachelor’s game

The neighbors are victims of / suburban piracy

Going from door to door / Showing their business-cards

You puttem all to shame / you puttem all to shame

 VI

 you move through the marketplace / like you was a stranger there

taking a hold of things / asking how much is this?

If a wheelbarrow full of cash / is the price of a loaf of bread

What will you pay to me / to relinquish my rockingchair?

 Or cut to the figurines / dancing in silhouette

one dressed in corduroys / one in a diamond suit

the princess of India / in the arms of a scalawag

whose playing the fool tonight / trying to pirouette

 Down in the lower depths / beneath the catacombs

Echoes of subway trains / hurtling overhead

The hands of a claustrophobe / touching the hands of God

Wound up in heavy chains / reaching for help and home

 Robin Hood checks his gauge / flawlessly changes lanes

Everyone beeps at him / tells him where he can go

From his perspective though / these are just bumper cars

You puttem all to shame / you puttem all to shame

 VII

 I watched you donning masks / out in the alleyways

Practicing tones of voice / under a crescent moon

You were the mermaid queen / tossing a skipping stone

Into a sea of sand / a valley of microwaves

 Someone was guiding me / they must’ve got lost, I guess

Out in the wilderness / look at that burning bush

I heard what sounded like / a wandering pack of wolves

pathetically fingernailed / clawing a dead-man’s chest

 Next time I pass this way / better have your eyes peeled

Stuck in their sockets like / they was a pair of bulbs

I’ll be in desperate straits / I’ll be insane with grief

Dragging a tire-swing / out of a potter’s field

 somebody threw himself / off the midnight Express

they said it was suicide / it was indisputable

nobody knew him though / he claimed to be everyone

you puttem all to shame / you puttem all to shame

 VIII

 the referee’s missing tooth / turned up in a boxingglove

that was inside the wedding-cake / they sent to the funeral

the one that read: Warmst Regards / From All of Us Back Home

depicting a concubine / dispensing a mother’s love

 and as the warden waits / examining old brochures

that advertised Michigan / that spoke of an afterlife

the inmates are at their bars / releasing their mourning doves

that’re seen from the passing bus / offering city-tours

 Mother Teresa writes / in an old-fashioned style

An overdue letter to / a boyfriend across the sea

Enclosing a photograph / in which she is posing nude

Saying, Next time you come / why don’t you stay awhile?

 And here’s Satan’s latest prize / the one with the swollen brain

Riding the chariot / into the stadium’s mouth

What are you waiting for? / who are you hiding from?

you puttem all to shame / you puttem all to shame

 IX

 the inferno calmly climbs / up on a bail of hay

Inviting martyrdom / down from its pedestal

the difference tween them and you’s / same as the difference tween

a woman that’s made of flesh / and one that’s just made of clay

 You came down the spiral stair / the way I’ve seen waterfall

Or like a shooting star / or like sinking hope

you had your hat on square / all perpendicular

you spoke in pentameter / like some kind of know it all

suddenly here we are / inside the final ring

Here at the empty room / here at the final hour

Traitors are telling lies / trying to avoid the blame

Elderly couples sit / fondly remembering

 I wrote, “Dear Beatrice,” / like I had forgot your name

Composing my epitaph / using a ball-point pen

and for the hundredth time / inside a half-an-hour

you puttem all to shame /  you puttem all to shame