August 13, 2012

Poem of the Week: Blues For Cisco Houston

by Thomas McGrath

More than nine hundred miles from home now Cisco --
Poor boy, gone underground to the final proletariat,
Old Blue following possum in the new ground corn
In the blaze of your death, by the light of your incendiary guitar.

Vessel of light, that black gut-box you carried!
Transport of insurrectionary calendars between Spain and Cuba
Bringing to rebels the hot Word, the machine guns of flowers and
    humming birds
Through the money-talking loaves and fishes of the God-blessed
    corporate sea.

In season the moth wing frosts the lamp with incandescent
Mortality. And beyond the frets and freights, half steps,
Stops, changes of time and times -- this train don't carry no
Rustlers, whores nor tin horn hustlers
. Gone. Glory train. Blazing

But here was a man come with a miracle in his bindle!
Winter multitudes warmed at the electric bread of your song,
The butterfly slept secure at the center of the Bomb,
And the Revolution caught fire wherever you came to town.

Movie at the End of the World 
(Swallow Press, 1972)

[With all the observances this year of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great Woody Guthrie, it seems fitting to tip the hat to his running buddy, comrade and fellow singer, Cisco Houston, especially this week--he would have been 96 on Saturday, the 18th. I highly recommend the splendid Cisco Houston website, to those who know his work as much as to those new to it, as well as to anyone interested in working class culture in the US. The video features a song from the very first record album I ever bought with my own money.]

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