I couldn’t believe my ears, but there it was, unmistakable. C.W. was singing again. Not only singing, he had one of my guitars and was pounding away in near-rhythm. What the…?
I stepped through the door and stared. It was C.W. in what is his current favorite form, the Galilean. He didn’t see me at first so I watched as he wailed,
“I was lost, my life was murky,
You come along, lookin’ cute and perky,
I snatched a grab and you just melted,
Like Joan of Arc, so I knew you felt it,
Love, love, like a sweet rain fallin’”
I must have gasped, for he stopped and looked up. “Hey Big Dope, what’s up?” Then he appeared to have an inspiration and started singing again.
“You walked in and I was singing,
Words of praise, your ears was ringing,
So I sang loud and the world stopped turning,
Paris fell, and Rome was burning,
Love, love like a kitten purrin,’”
He stopped. “What do you think?”
I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. I think maybe I nodded but I’m not sure.
“Don’t talk to me about great literature,” he said. He gathered his white robe beneath him and reached for a pitcher of, I learned later, frozen margaritas. He filled a glass and sipped. Then he seemed to notice me again. He nodded toward the pitcher. “Want one?”
I still couldn’t find my voice, so I just shook my head. “My second batch,” he said. “I heard that songwriters must get stoned.” He stopped, “Hey,” he said, grabbing pen and scribbling like a maniac. “Songwriters must get stoned … no, lonely people must get stoned … no, crazy people must get stone … no, poets and prophets must … oh Me... who the hell must get stoned? Oh well. I’ll think of it later.” He put the pen aside and sipped his drink. “Must be one too many mornings,” he said, then stopped and grabbed the pen again. “… and a thousand steps, no, drinks, no, smiles, no, something something something … a thousand somethings behind.” He resumed his drinking.
I found my voice at last. “Would you mind telling me what you are doing?”
“Just hanging out on Desolation Street,” he said. “Street, road, trail, Desolation Something.” He forgot me again and started writing.
“Gonna be a poet,” he said. “A singing poet. Maybe be one of them laurellets some day.”
“So you mean laureates?”
“Ain’t that what I just said? Geez. You walk into the room, with your uh, hmmm … briefcase, yeah, briefcase … in your hand.” He froze and grabbed the pen. “Wait one,” he said as he began to scribble.
“Have you gone mad?”
“They say all us poets are mad,” he said. “And you know you have to have a news man to know which way the vote goes.” He stopped and looked up. He nodded and smiled. “Listen to this.” He started to sing.
“I met you in the cornfield, right around Christmas time,
I liked the way you jiggled, so I thought I might drop a dime,
You ran off and left me, for a holy-roller preacher man,
Then I knew that I would find you, sittin’ in a witness stand.”
He looked a me and smiled. “What do you think?”
“I think maybe you mixed your metaphors.”
“Never mind,” I said. “Are you going to be a while?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Ain’t you going to stay and listen?”
“I’d rather shoot myself,” I said.
For a moment he looked hurt. Then he smiled, cocked his head to one side, looked down and started writing.
“Yonder stands old Big Dope with his gun … no … yonder stands your landlord with … no … yonder stands your best friend … no … mentor … no … brother … cousin … hus …”
I quietly slipped away. Later I walked by the door and heard him still at it. “Stuck inside of Pittsburgh …no … stuck inside of Dallas … no … stuck inside of Cleveland … Tucson … no … oh crap!”
This time I didn’t stop. They were announcing the Nobel Prize winners and I wanted to see if there were any surprises. Probably not, but who could tell?