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Into the columns and statues ofgovernment buildings, But mostly graves. I mount my monument and rise Slowly and spinningly from the white-gloved men Toward the hewn sky Out ofthe basement oflight, Sadly, lifted through time's blinding layers On perhaps my tombstone In which the original shape Michelangelo believed was in every rock upon earth Is heavily stirring, Surprised to be an angel, To be waked in North Georgia by the ponderous play Ofmen with ten-ton blocks But no more surprised than I To feel sadness fall offas though I myself Were rising from stone Held by a thread in midair, Badly cut, local-looking, and totally uninspired, Not a masterwork Or even worth seeing at all But the spirit ofthis place just the same, Felt here as joy. A Folk Singer ofthe Thirties On a bed ofgravel moving Over the other gravel Roadbed between the rails, I lay As in my apartment now. I felt the engine enter A tunnel a half-mile away And settled deeper Into the stones ofmy sleep Drifting through North Dakota. I pulled them over me Helmets / I60 For warmth, though it was summer, And in the dark we pulled Into the freight yards ofBismarck. In the gravel car buried To my nose in sledge-hammered stones, My guitar beside me straining Its breast beneath the rock, I lay in the buzzing yards And crimson hands swinging lights Saw my closed eyes burn Open and shine in their lanterns. The yard bulls pulled me out, Raining a rockslide ofpebbles. Bashed in the head, I lay On the ground As in my apartment now. I spat out my teeth Like corn, as they jerked me upright To be an example for The boys who would ride the freights Looking for work, or for Their American lives. Four held me stretching against The chalked red boards, Spreading my hands and feet, And nailed me to the boxcar With twenty-penny nails. I hung there open-mouthed As though I had no more weight Or voice. The train moved out. Through the landscape I edged And drifted, my head on my breast As in my clean sheets now, And went flying sideways through The country, the rivers falling Away beneath my safe Immovable feet, Close to me as they fell Down under the boiling trestles, A Folk Singer ofthe Thirties / I 6I And the fields and woods Unfolded. Sometimes, behind me, Going into the curves, Cattle cried in unison, Singing ofstockyards Where their tilted blood Would be calmed and spilled. I heard them until I sailed Into the dark ofthe woods, Flying always into the moonlight And out again into rain That filled my mouth With a great life-giving word, And into the many lights The towns hung up for Christmas Sales, the berries and tinsel, And then out again Into the countryside. Everyone I passed Could never believe what they saw, But gave me one look They would never forget, as I stood In my overalls, stretched on the nails, And went by, or stood In the steaming night yards, Waiting to couple on, Overhanging the cattle coming Into the cars from the night-lights. The worst pain was when We shuddered away from the platforms. I lifted my head and croaked Like a crow, and the nails Vibrated with something like music Endlessly clicking with movement And the powerful, simple curves. I learned where the oil lay Under the fields, Where the water ran With the most industrial power, Where the best corn would grow Helmets / I62 And what manure to use On any field that I saw. Ifriches were there, Whatever it was would light up Like a bonfire seen through an eyelid And begin to be words That would go with the sound ofthe rails. Ghosdy bridges sprang up across rivers, Mills towered where they would be, Slums tottered, and buildings longed To bear up their offices. I hung for years And in the end knew it all Through pain: the land, The future ofprofits and commerce And also humility Without which none ofit mattered. In the stockyards east ofChicago One evening, the orphans assembled Like choir boys And drew the nails from my hands And from my accustomed feet. I stumbled with them to their homes In Hooverville And began to speak In a chapel ofgalvanized tin Ofwhat one wishes for When streaming alone into woods And out into sunlight and moonlight And when having a station lamp bulb...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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