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Warren-Zevon-Paul-Muldoon

Warren Zevon with Paul Muldoon

Sillyhow Stride is a poem by the Northern Irish poet Paul Muldoon in memory of Warren Zevon, published in his 2006 book Horse Latitudes. Muldoon co-wrote some songs with Zevon, released on his album My Ride's Here ("Macgillycuddy's Reeks" and "My Ride's Here").

Text of the Poem Edit

HorseLatitudes

Horse Latitudes

Note: the text of this poem is not under the same license as encyclopedic text, it is used under fair use/dealing.

I Edit

I want you to tell me if, on Grammy night, you didn’t get one hell of a kick out of all those bling-it-ons in their bullet-proof broughams, all those line-managers who couldn’t manage a line of coke,

all those Barmecides offering beakers of barm – if you didn’t get a kick out of being as incongruous there as John Donne at a Junior Prom.

Two graves must hide, Warren, thine and mine corse who, on the day we met, happened also to meet an individual dragging a full-length cross

along 42nd Street and kept mum, each earning extra Brownie points for letting that cup pass. The alcoholic knows that to enter in these bonds

is to be free, yeah right. The young John Donne who sets a Glock on his dish in the cafeteria knows that, even as he plots to clean some A&R man’s clock,

his muse on dromedary trots to the Indias of spice and mine and the Parsi Towers of Silence, even as he buses his tray

with its half-eaten dish of beef chow mein to the bus-station, he’s already gone half-way to meet the Space Lab. The Space Lab (italics mine),

where you worked on how many mint juleps it takes to make a hangover while playing piano for all those schlubs you could eclipse

and cloud with a wink. I long to talk to some old lover’s ghost about the night after night you tipped the scales for the Everly Brothers,

Frank and Jesse, while learning to inhale through a French inhaler like a child soldier from the Ivory Coast learning to parch a locust on a machete, a child soldier who would e-mail

you, at your request, a copy of “Death Be Not Proud”, a child soldier who would hi-lite a locust with a flame. If your grave be broke up again some second guest

to entertain, let it serve as hallowed ground where those young shavers from the Ivory Coast may find their careers, as you found yours, on hold,

where Tim McGraw and OutKast, not to speak of those underachievers who don a black hat or a goatee as a computer screen dons a screen-saver

or the Princeton sky its seventeen-year cicadas, will find themselves on hold. You who went searching for a true, plain heart as an unreconstructed renegade

must have come to believe, with Frank and Jesse, no hate could hurt our bodies like our love. Another low-down dirty shame . . . To wicked spirits horrid

shapes assigned . . . Every nickel nudging the nickelodeon. O wrangling schools . . . O wrangling schools that search what fire shall burn this world, had none the wit to smell Izaak Walton

pressing down on Donne’s funeral pyre, yeah right, to smell the locust parched by that Ivory Coast subaltern, had none the wit unto this knowledge to aspire,

that this your fever, the fever that still turns the turntable, might be it? For every turn, like every tuning, is open, every thorn a durian,

every “bin” a “ben” on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Such a pilgrimage were sweet, Warren, barreling down the autobahn

through West Hollywood in your little black Corvette (part-barge, part hermaphrodite brig), our eyes set not on the noted weed

but the noted seaweed of Nobu Matsuhisa. Those child soldiers who parch a locust on a machete while tending a .50 caliber Browning with a dodgy breech

will know how the blood labors to beget Matsuhisa-san’s seared toro. At the winter solstice, as I filed past a band of ticket-scalpers

who would my ruined fortune flout at Madison Square Garden, I glimpsed a man in a Tibetan cap, nay-saying a flute,

whom I took at first to be an older Brian Jones, what with his flipping a butane lighter in my face and saying, “I shall be made thy music . . .” At that very moment, quite unbidden,

the ghost of Minoru Yamasaki (who had trailed me from the bar at Nobu) exhorted me to “Turn them speakers up full blast now Lucies, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks,

is sunk so low as my Twin Towers . . .”. Brian Jones’s patent winkle-pickers reflected a patent sky. “All strange wonders that befell me while the rest of them recorded Beggars

Banquet and I was sunk so low in Twickenham, lovers coming with crystal vials to take my tears . . .”. “I’ll do my crying in the rain with Don and Phil,”

said Yamasaki-san, “I’ll do my crying with Frank and Jesse waiting for a train . . . Those lines you wrote about the blood-bath at my Twin Towers, about the sky being full of carrion,

those were my Twin Towers, right?” Brian, meanwhile, continued to puff on the flute as if he were indeed corporeal, as if he were no less substantial than the elder-pith

nay on which he played a hurry home early version of “Walk Right Back”, the “Walk Right Back” you yourself had played night after night with Frank and Jesse Everly.

II Edit

I knelt beside my sister’s bed, Warren, the valleys and the peaks of the EKGs, the crepusculine X-rays, the out-of-date blister-packs

discarded by those child soldiers from the Ivory Coast or Zaire, and couldn’t think that she had sunk so low she might not make the anniversary

of our mother’s death from this same cancer, this same quick, quick, slow conversion of manna to gall from which she died thirty years ago. I knelt and adjusted the sillyhow

of her oxygen mask, its vinyl caul unlikely now to save Maureen from drowning in her own spit. I thought of how the wrangling schools

need look no further than her bed to find what fire shall burn this world – or that heaven which “is one with” this world – to find how gold to airy thinness beat

may crinkle like cellophane in a flame, like cellophane or the flimmerings of gauze by which a needle is held fast in a vein.

So break off, Warren, break off this last lamenting kiss as Christ broke with Iscariot and gave himself to those loosey-goosey

Whisky A Go Going mint julep- and margarita- and gimlet-grinders, those gin fizz- iognomists. My first guitar, a Cort, and my first amp, a Crate,

I myself had tried to push through a Fuzz Face or some shit-kicking stomp box till I blew every fuse

in Central New Jersey. At the autumnal equinox as on St Lucies when sunbeams in the east are spread I’d pretend the Crate was a Vox

AC-50 Super Twin. I was playing support for some star in the unchangeable firmament in which the flesh, Warren, is merely a bruise on the spirit,

a warm-up for the main event as the hymnal ushers in the honky-tonk or the oxygen tent

raises the curtain on the oxygen mask. How well you knew that dank spot on the outskirts of Jerusalem where the kids still squeeze between the tanks

to suck the life out of a cigarette, the maple-bud in spring like something coming to a head, some pill that can’t be sugared,

another hit of hooch or horse that double-ties the subtile knot to which we’ve paid so little heed

all those years of running amuck in Kent. Go tell court-huntsmen that the oxygen-masked King will ride ten thousand days and nights

on a stride piano, yeah right, through the hell in which Ignatius of “Ignatius His Conclave” was strung out on Mandrax and mandrake root,

ten thousand nights of the “chemical life” (as Auden styled it, turning the speakers up full blast), the “chemical life” that gives way to ten thousand days of rehab and golf

in the afternoon, televangelists, push up and bench press with Buddhist and Parsi, ten thousand days after which you realized

the flesh is indeed no more than a bruise on the spirit. The werewolf with the Japanese menu in his hand, keen as he was to show his prowess

with the chopsticks, realized it ain’t that pretty, ain’t that pretty at all to be completely wasted when you’re testing your chops, hint hint,

on a Gibson Les Paul overdriven through a Fender Vibratone, ain’t that pretty to crawl

to Ensenada for methadone. Were we not weaned till then from Mandrax and mandrake or snorted we in the seven sleepers’ den


a line of coke, or wore long sleeves to cover the wreak of injecting diacetylmorphine? I was playing a Fender through a Marshall rig

that was so massively overdriven I couldn’t hear the phone ring, didn’t hear that excitable boy extol the virtues of Peruvian

over Bolivian marching powder, that excitable hula-hula boy, the Jackson Browne sound-alike, who waited on us in Nobu (Nobu or Koi?)

where the fishionistas (sic) walked the catwalk for as long as they could manage a line of coke with their sushi deluxe,

for as long as they were able for the baby abalone with garlic sauce. We watched those two parascenders parascend off Malibu like two true, plain

hearts who struggle to fend off the great crash – two true, plain hearts like yourself and Maureen who struggled to fend off the great crash that has us end

where we began, all strung out on heroin on the outskirts of La Caldera, our last few grains of heroin-ash stashed in a well-wrought urn.


III Edit

I want you to tell me, Warren, if you didn’t watch those two hang-gliders and think of the individual we saw drag his full-length cross through the under-the-counter-culture

of 42nd Street? 42nd or Canal? A certain individual, whatreck, who might easily have taken in a 4 a.m. show at the Clark and got to grips with the usherette’s leg in the dark,

who might have recognized the usherette for a certain demirep who’d registered her domain in the Adelphi, having already learned the ropes

from the old bluesmen who played in the Blue Note. That must have been your first brush with greatness, in Chicago, before the mean

streets of LA where your Moses met the bulrush of Stravinsky and every chord became a cordon sanitaire against the bum’s rush

your Russian Jewish father had given you in Culver and Century Cities, your G major seeing his G major in gloves-off gambling, and though music did in the center

sit right through that Wanderjahre with Stravinsky, I’m certain it would also lean and hearken after the jubilation and the jeers

of the boxing ring in which your father took on some cocksure Puerto Rican, in which every Baby Grand cried out for a Crybaby and the Everlasting Life we bargain

for was invented by some record company Pooh-Bah who has forgotten, in the midst of things, that every operation’s mom-and-pop,

your Scottish Mormon mother teaching you the right swing against your father’s left, your common G on the Chickering

sounding against the G-men who plagued him about that pyramid scheme he set up in the Faeroes with Mr Cambio and Mr Gombeen.

I want you to tell me if grief, brought to numbers, cannot be so fierce, pace Donne’s sales pitch, for he tames, that fetters it in verse, throwing up a last ditch against the mounted sorrows, for I have more, Warren, I have more, more as an even flame two hearts did touch

and left us mere philosophers whose blood still labors to beget child-soldiers toasting locust S’mores,

the A&R men lining their pockets while Roland battled the Bantu to their knees, the Bantu who boogie-woogied

with Saint Ignatius through their post traumatic stress disorder, the Les Paul pushed through a Pignose

like a, yeah right, Rotorooter through a sewage line, the A&R men taking the mazuma and crossing the border

to load up on sashimi with Yamasaki-san, a headless Childe Roland coming to his dark twin Towers of Silence, zoom zoom,

those Towers the Parsis still delineate as scaffolds for sky-burial, a quorum of vultures letting their time-chastened lant

fall to their knees as they hold on like grim death to the bellied-up Brian Jones, their office indulgently to fit actives to passives in the doldrums

of the swimming-pool, the fishionistas (qv) with their food fads having nothing on these rare birds that divide

the spoils, Warren, these rare birds that divide the spoils with the gasbag, gobshite, gumptionless A&R

men who couldn’t tell a hollow-body Les Paul with double-coil pickups pushed through a Princeton Reverb from a slab of London broil

an excitable boy might rub all over his chest, the vultures working piecemeal at his chest like the chest on which a Russian Jewish cardsharp

and a Scottish Mormon broke the seal as surely as one VIP opening her bosom made one Viper Room an everywhere, every Glock sighing for a glockenspiel,

every frame a freeze-frame of two alcoholics barreling down to Ensenada in a little black Corvette, vroom vroom,

for Diet, yeah right, Diet Mountain Dew, that individual carrying his cross knowing the flesh is a callus on the spirit as surely as you knew the mesotheliomata

on both lungs meant the situation was lose-lose, every full-length cross-carrier almost certainly up to some sort of high jinks else a great Prince in prison lies,

lies belly-up on a Space Lab scaffold where the turkey buzzards pink Matsuhisa-san’s seared toro, turkey buzzards waiting for you to eclipse and cloud them with a wink

as they hold out their wings and of the sun his working vigor borrow before they parascend through the Viper Room or the Whiskey A Go Go, each within its own “cleansing breeze”, its own cathartes aura.

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