I have always been on the wrong side of the tracks. I was a strange child: cold and different, bookish and distant. I was not warm or loving, not sociable in any way that was acceptable to those around me, or that they recognized as any kind of friendliness. Dragging my nose out of a book, spitting at me the suspicion that I thought I was better than they were, my ‘parents’ never got out of the mindset that I was deeply suspect, strange and possibly dangerous. Those tracks ran down the center of the household, drawing a neat end of the line around me and encircling them. I used to sit and read Little House On The Prairie, wishing that it was my boots on the borderline instead of the Ingalls, that I was riding in their covered wagon from log cabin to dug out to camp to the banks of the Plum River to the Wisconsin forest. I dreamed of throwing myself onto the wilderness to run away with those who were not encased in society’s rules.
Do this. Don’t do that. Be this. Don’t be that. The only things which mattered to those around me, the only objects of desire, were defined by their absolute mundanity, normality, dull adherence to the rules and regulations and society’s expectations. I was constitutionally unsuited to such a life, with goals of neat shiny new sedan cars, semi-detached faux style houses, paid for by a lifetimes servitude to the wage and the bank and to wasting time in a job that was admired and accepted by others. I was never going to be a lawyer, or a doctor, nor a conventionally successful professional. Not that I didn’t have the brains or the qualifications. I did shockingly well at school. I just lacked the temperament that needs to attend it in order to find a life playing the game to be bearable.
I read Camus and Satre, Milan Kundera and Rimbaud. I found Verlaine and decided I preferred him to Rimbaud’s flashy stinking rose poetical decrepitude. Verlaine has more of a quiet soul, a more gentle disposition. Rimbaud always feels so brutal and coldly diamond-hard-clearly-brilliant. I began to form my world around me, tracking down those that felt as if they were sympatico. By the time I picked up the thread in music, found where the Verlaines and Rimbauds, the Satres and the Camus’ were hiding, I was sold. Poetry was in the tracks, not the pages. Thin wild mercury music, Dylan’s Woody Guthrie beat-devotion, Leonard Cohen’s depressive suicidal idolization of women and the female form, Television’s Marquee Moon and The Velvet Underground’s musical exploration. In Work, Lou Reed declares that Andy told them to keep all the dirty words in the songs, and in that simple request hooked up the band to the Rimbaud mainline into brutal honest genius.
Poetry that digs into that eternal struggle of a beauty that can only define itself against ugliness, of bliss that can only find meaning in relation to pain, of feeling that can only be understood in relation to the hunt for numbness. Poetry that has something to say. It was only when popular music stop saying something in the groove and the tracks and the lines and the hollow of the guitar body wailing, when it reverted to sugar sugar, or butter butter, or whatever insane little ditty-purveyors that the cheap seats are throwing their money at right now, Korean boy bands or facially tattooed soggy trap artist rednecks with industrially created style – lil-whatever rappers, that those that care about such things started to suspect that rock and roll was dead. What they mean is poetry is dead. What they mean is that inspiration has died, run over by the freight train of mundanity on the tracks of popular culture.
I need to go tap on the shoulders of the dying and dispossessed – those also on the wrong side of the tracks. The tent dwellers and the half-naked, shove drum sticks, guitars, basses, and microphones at them and see what they come up with. Art from suffering. Art from dirt and disease. Art from shock and those who do not get trapped by the dull race for mediocrity and mundanity and respectability. The words make me want to spit. Who knows, perhaps if people could stay alive for long enough they could come up with something interesting. At least something real and about the words and sound not the white straight teeth and plastic surgery. Look at Keith Richards circa ’71, or a smacked out Dylan around the Blonde on Blonde era, they were not shiny catwalk attractive. They were attractive like magnets not like a rotten peach for the flies, sweetly enticing with rot and sugar.
Hunted and tracked. Tracks on my arms, tracks on the stereo – needle jumping one to the other and back again. Tracking the lust, tracking the pain, tracking the inspiration down the line, following it’s footprints in the sand and the snow, the mud and the street grime.
I wonder if I left any impression that remains from the west coast, to the mid-west, from the now burnt out lush little gold rush towns to the high desert dismal parched wild sage lands to the lake blue saturated Minnesotan forests. I like to think there is a wheel mark here, or a footprint there, an initial carved into a tree, a photo of you and me. A memory in the mind of someone who might have loved me once upon a time. Love. It sounds ridiculous now, love. Love sounds like something some other people do. Like something I had my shot at and now reject. I was such a romantic, such a sad excuse for a woman, moon in my eyes, and a face that lit up at that warm reaction, that touch, that interaction. I don’t believe in it any more. I broke up with love, I have no use for lust. It isn’t out there for me. The closest I get to infatuation is for that melting fat moon, and those blue pointed stars, and that flying through space. A traveller to the coast of perfection, shedding the weight and the pain and the disappointment of the flesh – both mine and others.
I used to track down love, a cupid with a U100 and a sling shot good eye for some soul to bounce off of. Love had long hair and soft brown eyes, or smashed cheekbones and pale blue watery pools with blown pupils and blown lives, or soft tan skin and curls and arms that encircled or hard scarred fists that could not perform gentle acts and were only good for some sick kick or other. I was a mouse hunting cats. A cartoon disasterzone, offering the painted roses in exchange for a kick or a touch, or a surface to reflect from, only to find that the prey turned on me dropping anvils from cliff tops or gift wrapping life-dynamite and presenting me with bombs and bows.
Yeah, I have always been tracked. Ugly lines of used up veins, knots of scars, feet high stepping along the steel lines that crisscross this country of my childhood fantasies. Not much I can do about any of it, except keep on walking down the line, sitting on the wire, smoke in my hand. Nothing else to do at all.