For Russ "RPM" Murray.
“Breaker, Breaker, it’s the Shiny Blue Fiend
C-W-Calling from the Channel 14.
I’m heading North on 55 around dawn
Via the Badlands, needing a friendly ear for my songs;
So if you read me, fling a “10-4” or a magnetic curse
Towards my way, ‘cause I’m butt-tired and it can only get worse.”
My name is Edmond Meat: I’m aged 23 so far.
Born in Danville: now living out the trunk of my car.
That I don’t get pulled over I am praying to God-knows-where.
I got a .357 laying flat on my dash.
Kept my finger excercised talking CB trash
‘Till I can see them pretty blue painted gas lights start to flash.
“I had a Goersville girl with skin milky-white:
She’s ‘bout the only one who thought I could write.
I was working late at UIC
On my masters thesis ‘bout the Spoon River Anthology.
She used to sometimes ride to the library;
A vision in a sunflower print for sore eyes to see.”
She rode in to bring me food & say “Hey”,
But when she turned around to get off at her stop there was something
in the way.
An ER unit found her little body cold-to-the-touch, where she lay,
Some three miles down from where the night trains go slow, stashed.
Now she’s more fuel for the pyre inside their bucket of ash:
A still-life sculpted from a pillar of salt amongst trash.
I’ve seen the farm boys lured by your dust mouths gasping,
& their Colgate smiles from your rich man’s asprin.
& Carl Sandberg called you players with toy trains,
But now a paranoid boy’s put a log in the track’s way.
My girl was the beautiful half of a golden hurt
‘Till she fell like a shining column shoveled in dirt.
Carl died in ’67, never met Daley’s stare,
While Gwen Brooks was hiding from him playing billiards somewhere.
(Mr. State Trooper, don’t you pull me over.
Mr. State Trooper, won’t you please pass by, sir.
Do you got a wife you wouldn’t want alerted
That her baby died in the line? I’m sure of it.)
the champions, prepare for war,
‘Cause the sun & moon darken when Jeruselem roars.
Hammer your plowshares into swords.
Let the weakling say, “I am a fighting man, Lord,”
You who have sold my people to Babylon,
Enslaved Judah, chained the sons of Zion:
They’ll be a time in which I’ll have them all summoned,
& then I’ll make a wasteland of Egypt and Edom.
& those that sow in tears shall reap in joy."
At the hospice, she was chained
to the bed.
Wires in her mouth & coming out of her head.
When she could sleep I’d sit in the conference room
Next door seeing nothing but red.
I’d try to come up with lyrics to take out the fight
& get some homework done, but every word I’d write
Came out as “Caw caw caw” on the page
I’ve had an awful rhythm riddling my bones since the next day,
So I’ve been touring the country just like Vachel Lind says.
(I ain’t been to work at the boat shop in those three months since May.)
I traced Starkweather’s path through Wyoming by following ravens,
& now they’ve led me back to Chi-Town just to see if the place is
(I hope the new guy Daddy hired is as good as me at lathing.)
& I’ve heard all about His little excursions:
How the muddy waters electrocuted blood stream surges, oh yeah,
& how He lit the green fuse that pushed us up through the dusty
& how since then he ain’t made a God-damned sound.
(From the distance, a skyline’s beautiful,
But up close, it’s the wicked generation, oh Joel;
I’d sooner sell my soul than pay this next toll.
Breaker, breaker, I could use some conversation.
I need to hear some buddy’s feedback other than gospel stations.
I’m tired of hearing lost souls clamoring for salvation.)
(Come on, baby, don’t you wanna go?
Back to that sweet home Chicago?
“Caw caw” go the sound of the trains like crows
Travelling into the morning Chi-Town flow.)
I’m considering sleep, I stiffen up my resolve
& sniff the cornhusker whiskey I’ve been living off of.
I see her enbalmed in tubes, narrow my eyes through the mist:
I’m gonna make sure old Chicago feels that
Pulse in my wrist.
Edmond Meat finds the perfect crystallization of Windy City bureaucracy
in the El train whose huddled passengers seem a hostile
mass, whose tracks his fiancées body is discovered near.
This is pure revenge fantasy, Springsteens Light Of Day
in a Bizarro World where our narrator crossdresses as both swooping
death angel & Springfield Renaissance-era warrior-poet. Lines from The Book Of
Joel&State Trooper are thefted here as a goof
on inebriated peoples tendency to butcher famous quotes (e.g.,
To thine self-actualization, uh, be truthful to . . . I believe I originally said that, hic hic . . .).
Zack Klatt - Background Vocals
Paul Simon - You Can Call Me Al / Jonathan Fire*Eater -
Bipolar Summer & Everybody Plays The Mime
/ 311 - Eons / Lou Reed - The Power & The Glory
(Pt. 2) / Lone Justice - I Found Love & Sweet
Jane / Michael Heaton - Honest / X - The Worlds
A Mess, Its In My Kiss / Violent Femmes - Promise
/ The Blasters - Samson & Delilah / Gillian Welsh -
Tear My Stillhouse Down / Wire - Three Girl Rumba
/ Robert Johnson - 32-30 Blues, Stones In My Passway
& If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day / The Judybats
- How It Is
“Not a knife-throw
from here you can hear the night train passing
That’s the sound that someone makes when they’re getting away
Leaving next week’s hanging jury far behind them
Prisoner only of the choices they’ve made
Night train . . .
Anyone can die here ----- they do it every day
It doesn’t take much effort tho it goes against the grain
And the ultimate forgetfulness of violence
Sweeps the landscape like the headlights of a train
And in the absence of a vision, there are nightmares
And in the absence of compassion, there is cancer
Whose banner flies over palaces and mean streets
And the rhythm of the night train is a mantra . . .”
- Bruce Cockburn, “Night Train” (1996)
gonna buy me a Johnson Machine gun
And a carload of explosion balls
And then I’m gonna be a walkin’ cyclone, baby,
From Sagitaw to Niagara Falls.
Please get me my Johnson typewriter,
And a whole round belt of balls
I’m gonna free my no-good woman,
She’s down at the State Penitentiary Walls.
Now lil' girl the undertaker been up here lookin’ for you, woman,
And I’ve done given him your height and size
If you don’t be makin’ whoopee with the Devil this time tomorrow,
God knows, you’ll be surprised.”
- Sunnyland Slim, “Johnson Machine Gun Blues” (1950)
"The men left there and went to Sodom while Abraham remained standing
before Yahweh. Approaching Him he said, "Are you really going to
destroy the just man with the sinner? Perhaps there are fifty just men
in the town. Will you overwhelm them, will you not spare the place for
the fifty just men in it? Do not think of doing such a thing: to kill
the just man with the sinner, treating just and sinner alike! Do not
think of it! Will the judge of the whole earth not administer justice?"
Yahweh replied, "If at Sodom, I find fifty just men in the town,
I will spare the whole place because of them."
replied, "I am bold indeed to speak like this to the Lord, I who
am dust and ashes. But perhaps the fifty men just lack five: will you
destroy the whole city for five?" "No," He replied, "I
will not destroy it if I find forty-five just men there."
- Genesis 18: 27-28, The Jerusalem Bible
talked to you about death, didn’t she. She talked to you about death?’
‘No. Yes. Well not habitually. But we did have a discussion about death.
Quite recently. It’s been in my head. I’ve been playing it back. Like
you do. I’m not sure this thought was original to her. Probably not.
But she put it . . . memorably. Newton, Issac Newton, used to stare
at the sun? He’d blind himself for days, for weeks, staring at the sun.
Trying to figure the sun out. Jennifer ----- she was sitting right where
you’re sitting. And she quoted some aphorism. Some French guy. Some
duke. Went something like: “No man can stare at the sun or at death
with a, with an unshielded eye.” Now here’s the interesting part. Do
you know who Stephen Hawking is, Detective?’
‘He’s the . . . the guy in the wheelchair. Talks like a robot.'
‘And do you know what a black hole is, Detective? Yeah, I think we all
have some idea. Jennifer asked me: Why was it Hawking who cracked black
holes? I mean, in the Sixties everybody was going at black holes hammer
and tongs. But it was Stephen who gave us some answers. She said: Why
him? And I gave the physicists answer: Because he’s the smartest guy
around. But Jennifer wanted me to consider an explanation that was more
----- romantic. She said: Hawking understood black holes because he
could stare at them. Black holes mean oblivion. Mean death. And Hawking
has been staring at death all his adult life. Hawking could see.’”
- Martin Amis, Night Train (1997