Plainsong v 2

Years ago, when I was at Rice, I had a roommate named Fred who was very musical — he played the piano and guitar  and had a powerful but sweet tenor voice.   One evening, he claimed to me that he could sing anything, absolutely anything.  I challenged him and offered a textbook øn differential equations.  He opened it, and immediately began to sing the text beautifully, turning phrases like: ” the partial of y with respect to the partial of x” into lovely sounds.

I thought of Fred when I wrote the following song/poem.  It is meant to be sung (or chanted) aloud.


Once, I sang,
And the people came,
And they smiled at me and said:
“Sing, sing some ore.”

No more song.
My voice has lost its music,
And now the people are
Deaf, deaf to me.

I cannot hum.
Life has a hum
I cannot hear, or understand.
Noise, noise to me

I need song.
I must find a way
To rejoin that harmony
Lost, lost to me.

Old. Grown old.
Oh tell me, God
Why life must needs be linear?
Bend, bend a little.

I’ll be a child!
A child can laugh, a child can cry
If I can cry, the I can
Sing, sing some more.

To The Fair

Here I go again.   I said here that I didn’t write songs, and yet here is yet another verse turned into a song, this one from the early 70’s.

My mother made me take you out
She said that you were very sad,
Because your mother and your dad
Had perished in a roundabout.
And so I met you at your place
And smiled at you and took your hand.
You didn’t smile, but I understand;
I saw the sorrow in your face.

Chorus 1:
Oh, do you remember when I took you to the Fair,
To the Fair?
And how we got together there?

Verse 1:
Oh, do you remember the Ferris Wheel?
That great circle of seats and steel.
Oh, do you remember the Teddy Bear,
And hoards of people everywhere,
And Cotton Candy?

Repeat Chorus 1

Verse  2:
Oh, do you remember the racing game?
The plunger-pulling racing game,
And the ceramic leopard that I won –
You said you hadn’t had such fun
Since bumper-cars.

Repeat Chorus 1:

Verse 3:
Oh, do you remember the strength machine?
How I, reluctant, far from keen,
Picked up the hammer, rang the bell?
After that, we said we might as well
Head on home.

Chorus 2:
Oh, do you remember when I took you to the Fair
To the Fair?
And how you smiled at me there?

Another Song

Recently, I posted this, which I said was the only true song I ever wrote.   That’s no longer true.  A refrain from a Dylan-inspired verse I wrote back in 1968 began to percolate in my brain, and it has just expanded into my second song.

Fortune Smiles on a Motherless Child

Well, Life, it is fleeting,
And rain, it is sleeting,
And I have no where to go.
But still, I can ramble,
And with cards, I can gamble,
So I’m heading out on the road.

Fortune smiles on a motherless child,
Fortune smiles on a motherless child,
Got no relations; I’m running wild.
Fortune smiles on a motherless child.

My backpack is stuffed with food,
The long road lies before me,
There is no one to hold me,
I got no place to be.
Got all that I need, just my backpack and me.
Don’t need nobody to love.
But still I feel grateful
For the heavens above.

Repeat Chorus.

Well, someone once loved me,
Well, someone once kissed me,
Now she’s gone, she’s far away.
But still, I can ramble,
And with cards, I can gamble,
So I’m heading out on the road.

Repeat Chorus.

The Earth, it is my mother,
My Father is the sky.
If ever, I’m not between them,
I’ll know I’m going to die.
Got all that I need; don’t care about love.
I laugh at snow and rain.
Fortune smiles on a motherless child,
And he don’t mind the pain.

Repeat Chorus.

Poems and Songs

In the Sixties and Seventies, I wrote a number of verses that I called “songs”, that were inspired by the popular music of the day.  It was the fashion to refer to artists like Bob Dylan as poets, so it seemed logical to refer to song-like verses as songs.  At some point, I may post some examples on this site.

I’m aware, of course, that popular songs have a structure that is dictated by the needs of the music.   Since I am devoid of musical talent, I’ve never seriously envisioned writing actual songs – with one exception.

When I was young, I was enthralled by musical theater, especially anything that involved clever verse – like  W. S. Gilbert  and Cole Porter.

“In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something simply shocking
Now Heaven knows; anything goes.”

It seems to me now, as it seemed to me then, that to write something that sticks in the mind is rather glorious.

The following modest Cole Porter imitation, from 1965, is the only actual song I ever wrote.

You Simply Can’t Be You

All of my life,
With its trouble and strife,
I’ve got the small end of the stick,
Now you come along,
Like a girl from a song,
And all at once, I’m lovesick!

You simply can’t be you,
I’m afraid it just won’t do.
As you can plainly see,
You’re not the one for me.

You simply can’t be you,
My dream cannot come true.
A beautiful girl, for a guy like me,
Is like a pair of wings,
For a ship at sea,
Or a cold beer mug
For a cup of tea.


I guess that that’s the catch.
We just aren’t a match.
The simple reason why
You and I don’t fit
Is that I’m the guy
With the face that sunk a thousand ships.
So no matter how hard you try.