February 16, 2012

"Woody Guthrie" by Jane Poznikov


Find a Grave


It was in a bend of the Sacramento River, Redding, California,
I come into camp one night from playing the saloons and two girls, twelve and fourteen, were singing to quiet a baby and strumming a guitar.
I hung mine up on a stub of limb, went down and stretched myself out and listened for a long time.
I just reared back and soaked in every note.
It was so clear and honest sounding, no Hollywood put-on, no fake wiggling.
It was better to me than the loud squalling and bawling I had to do to make myself heard in the old mobbed up saloons. 
And instead of getting you all riled up mentally and sexually, it done something a lot better, something that’s harder to do.
It cleared your head up, that's what it done, caused you to fall back and let your draggy bones rest.

The men who’d been in the saloons come down the trail to where they was singing--then the whole drunk mess of them stood there reeling and listening in the dark. Then they shushed each other to keep quiet and set down on the ground to listen. Everybody got so still that it almost crackled in the air. 
Two little girls were making two thousand working people feel like I felt, rest like I rested. 
Not a one of them talking above a whisper, and the one whispering feels guilty because she knows that ninety-nine out of every hundred are tired, weary, have felt sad, joked and carried on to keep from crying. 
These two little girls are telling about all of that trouble, and everybody knows it’s helping.
These songs say something about our hard traveling, something about our hard luck, our hard get-by,
But the songs say we’ll come through all of these in pretty good shape, and we’ll be all right. We’ll work, help each other, and make ourself useful.

If a cyclone comes, or a flood wrecks the country, or a bus load of school children freeze to death along the road, if a big ship goes down, or an airplane falls in your neighborhood, an outlaw shoots it out with the deputies, or the working people go out to win a war, yes, you’ll find a train load of things you can set down and make up a song about. 
You’ll hear people singing your words around over the country, and you’ll sing their songs everywhere you travel or everywhere you live, and these are the only kind of song my head or my music box has got any room for. 

Men squatted or sat leaning back against tree trunks. It got so quiet you could hear the lightning bugs turn their lights on and off. The old jungle camp was getting a lot of good rest there listening to the little girls’ song drift out across the dark wind.