CHARLIE PARR

 

Last of the Better Days Ahead

Money can’t buy back that ‘64 Falcon that you sold in your 20’s and then regretted it was gone because you thought it contained some meaning or some answers to a life that you never bothered to question or even take a good close look at

And it broke your heart to see how it had been so important from the feeling of the steering wheel to the rubber on the road and now it’s grown to unrealistic proportions in your mind

Now you’re in your 50’s why can’t you forget how the chrome bumpers shined in the sun if you could just go back even for a minute you could forget how you don’t even know what it was you’ve lost

Why do you always feel so empty in spite of all you have were those feelings you remember even real and were they honestly about some junky old Falcon or any other thing that you could own

Because now it’s all so stale and you feel so very old like you’ve taken all your chances and tossed them all aside for some stupid piece of metal like shiny bits of trash that line the stolen nest of a greedy neighborhood crow

So you drive back to your hometown to visit with your past but nothing looks the same anymore except you can see all that you squandered while you were shining all that chrome you were handed all you needed without cost but you were too blind to see it and you took it all for granted now you wanna complain - tell me just what was it that you’ve lost

And now you start to panic and your gas is running low and you need to find some meaning before you’re stranded on the road and when the engine finally dies near a soybean field at dusk you just sit and watch the sunset turn the entire sky to rust


Blues for Whitefish Lake, 1975

Heading across the lake in my little boat
A surface of glass
I am bound for a notch in the trees
Rotting wooden steps
It’s difficult to see in the waning light
Of northland’s october evening
(concentrate on the pool of water, that travels from bow to stern)
I have a small outboard, lent to me by my uncle
In need of slight repair
It feels like it’s taking forever
To reach the farthest shore
When I see a scrap of neon
Floating like a balloon caught in the trees
(concentrate on the darkening treeline, concentrate on the sinking dock)
I can hear voices from above me
On the steepest part of the bank
And listen for the voice of my father
In the midst of the pines
There is a bar at the top of the staircase
Hidden amongst the leaves
(concentrate on the face of my father, concentrate on the last shirt I saw him wear)
There is an aging fishing boat at the dock
Mostly sunk into the mud
The steps are all but gone now
Rotten to my tread
I cling to branches to keep from slipping
The rain is coming on
(concentrate on never falling, concentrate on never climbing back down)


Walking Back From Willmar

The steeple in the distance is lit by a neon cross (2)
But when he got to the door for mercy’s sake, he found it to be locked

Tony was a security officer down at the trailer yard (2)
He lived in an abandoned reefer, at the far end of the trailer lot

Sometimes he’d come to town, a stray dog trailing at his heels (2)
All the stray dogs love Tony because he knows exactly how it feels

He might ask you for some change, Lord knows he’s a volunteer (2)
Keeping an eye out for his family, keeping all his close friends near

Sleeping down on the cold ground will wear your muscles out (2)
There ain’t nothing colder than the agent’s heart when he’s kicking you off that Willmar shot

Tony says he’ll tramp down south but no one’s seen him make a move to leave (2)
He just shrugs his shoulders and smiles how he’ll catch out next spring

The steeple in the distance is lit by a neon cross (2)
But when he got to the door for mercy’s sake, he found it to be locked


Anaconda

On a long flat highway in a hail-damaged Chevrolet
A young woman dreams about her escape
From a way of life to which she cannot relate
Poor and thin, her options are very slim
Discouraged and abused, by all of her kin
Where to begin

(CH)
This world looks like it’s built for just one kind
And everybody else is gonna have to sit at the side
Where they’ll never ever be allowed to drive
But that’s all a lie, so they can keep all the pie, all the time

So this woman feels like she’s all alone
And the house and the town have never felt like home
And the message at her school is designed to keep her down
Just calm down, and sit back down
And follow our crowd, and whoever else is around

(CH)

I live in a shipping crate over near the docks
And build my furniture out of pallets and rocks
And no one’s gonna tell me how I live is wrong
Where I feel welcome, is where I’ll call my home
Don’t judge folks whose path is not your own
Let ‘em alone

(CH)


Everyday Opus

The streets in this part of town are all made out of dirt
And there aren’t any streetlights for when I get up to go to work
The road grader comes once in awhile to fill in all the holes
And leave a ridge of gravel to trip me as I go

There aren’t any sidewalks here, just ditches into yards
And folks get kind of upset when you’re walking through their lawn
So I keep it on the roadway and try to move along
If they see me when they’re driving they’ll always blow their horn

All up and down this street these houses all look the same
In the greying of the twilight I can’t recall a single name
Of any of my neighbors or the faces of their kids
Only the kinds of cars they drive and if their dogs are tied

(CH)
Walking in these shoes isn’t as easy as you’d like
Dodging all the bricks that are breaking all my lights
We all have to struggle and hold it as our truth
It’s about as special for me as it is for you

Now I’m on the highway overpass waiting for the bus
To take me to my job in a downtown office cleaning up
The scraps of paper nonsense that the office workers throw
Into waste bins full of chewed gum and empty cans of Faygo

But I don’t know who they are or even how they look
I only know the jokes they have pinned up in their nook
This one likes football, that one has a pup
Here’s one who’s real messy and never picks it up

I clean it up before they arrive and head out to my bus
Or maybe i’ll stay downtown and get a little lunch
At the diner near my job if I have some extra cash
Or maybe I’m too tired today so I’ll go home to crash

(CH)

I keep all the doors shut to the other rooms in my house
That I don’t want to heat and no one lives here now
But me and I don’t take up very much space
Just the front room with my bed and the kitchen and the bath

I’ll make a little supper and watch a little TV
I usually feel too restless to find a book and read
So I eat too many chips and drink too many beers
And the evening drains away and I fall asleep in my chair

Sometime on a weekend I think I’ll visit a friend
And remember all our old times and see how they have been
But it feels like a lot of effort to explain myself again
So I’ll just wait and see if they’ll visit me instead

(CH)

I woke up the next morning before my alarm could go off
I was fuzzy from the beer and too tired to get up
I tried calling in to my boss but she wouldn’t answer her phone
I can’t afford to lose this job so I put some coffee on

I pulled on the same clothes i had on the night before
No one ever saw me anyway it never mattered what I wore
So I locked the door behind me and I started on my walk
Along my gravel street and downtown to my work


On Fading Away

I was walking down by Hobson’s Creek, in the morning just before it rained (2)
The path was slick and I stumbled again and again

I was soaking wet from the night before, shivering to the bone, but I was moving just the same (2)
The matches in my pocket all ruined from the rain

I saw a flatboat on the river, the rain started coming down hard (2)
I was used to being wet and did not wipe my face at all

I paddled to the current and lay down in the bottom and I drifted in the storm (2)
I could hear the river through the boat like it was knocking on a door

I wanted to drift with the river and follow it all the way to the gulf (2)
The rhythm of the water put me out just like a drug

I had drifted down for miles and I knew i could not drift back up (2)
The clouds were clearing and I put my matches out to dry in the sun


817 Oakland Avenue

Can you remember what it’s like
When all the world’s filled with light
Now do you have that in your sight
Then spread it around, do
Spread it all around, do
Then spread it around, do

Have you felt joy in your days
Even though you’ve had your share of pain
What does hoarding that joy gain
Then spread it around, do
Spread it all around, do
Then spread it around, do

Has your belly ever been full
And have you fed your family too
Does your table have just a little more room
Then spread it around, do
Spread it all around, do
Then spread it around, do

Are your blankets soft and warm
Does the roof above you keep out the storms
Can you save someone else from being cold
Then spread it around, do
Spread it all around, do
Then spread it around, do

It’s true about love
It’ll die if it’s covered up
It’s got to be all given away
So we can all feel the heat of it’s rays

Can you remember what it’s like
When all the world’s filled with light
Now do you have that in your sight
Then spread it around, do
Spread it all around, do
Then spread it around, do


Listening to Robert Johnson

It was a bleak summer night and I was walking, no particular place to go
I would walk into a circle, and come right back to the place I was at before

It was hot and had been raining, humid even at 2 am
The streets were wet and the grass was soaking, there was no dry place to lay my head

Deep blue fell from the night sky, bleached to grey under the overhead lamps
All the shadows were 3 dimensions, like you could crawl right inside and camp

I heard music down the avenue, that punctured right through the traffic sounds
Harsh and sweet all at the same time, and I hurried to follow it down

I stopped outside a grey house near the alley, and found my way to the sound
I could hear the music clearly, and I lay myself down on the ground

I was taken to meet the devil, and I trembled in the pouring rain
I took a ride in a fast car, next to a woman named Betty Mae

I woke up to the blues, it was walking, blues walking like a man
I was a bar-room clown, i was stumbling, stones all in my path

I carried my baby’s suitcase, down to the waiting train
While the blues fell down, just like rain

It all ended with the sunrise, i tried to get to my feet
The music still played in my aching heart, it was such perfect poetry


   

Bed of Wasps

Don’t let him through that door
I can’t bear to never see him anymore
The coincidence of our accord
Has been misunderstood for years and more
I can’t stand to be alone
But there’s no one else I can be around
I know I can’t keep him here with me
But I don’t know how to set us free

Time is a game played by smarter beings
I’m lost in a fog trying to know what it means
If I were to lose track of the path i was on
Would I float away or simply find another one
Why is it so hard to see past your own nose
Time is an illusion
So it goes

Please don’t let her leave
I know she won’t be back again
Did I hold on too tight
When I tried to be her friend
Does it mean so much more to me
That I might try and apprehend
Her time which is her own
And never has been mine

All this space that we share
How much do I really know
Assumptions I’ve made about her
Are only mine and never show
The true nature of this room
Please let me see without my eyes
Space is coincidence
So it goes

Our lives are intertwined
But it’s not the act of you or I
It could be anyone else
And it wouldn’t cost me any less
The universe is made of sails
With no rudder turning into the gale
It’s meaningless to speculate
From inside the ship they’re all just waves

If I could embrace the eternal moment
And shrug off the past like an unwelcome blanket
If only the future didn’t haunt my dreams
I awaken too early trying to figure what it means
Are my nightmares actually what’s real
I sleep in a bed of wasps
So it goes


Rain

When I was a migrant crossing the desert plains
My daughter in a backpack that I’d made out of plants
My wife I left behind me with our baby at her breast
And her aging mother in an aging canvas tent
Go for help they begged with tears all in their eyes
In my homeless brethren sandals while nails rained from the skies

Our hands our feet our hearts ain’t they all the same
If you were left out here with me wouldn’t you feel the rain

When I was so thirsty living in my home
And the water taps gave out poison so I couldn’t drink none
When the neighbors all around me turned their thirsty eyes downtown
The company that carried the blame wouldn’t even hear us out

Our hands our feet our hearts ain’t they all the same
If you were left out here with me wouldn’t you feel the rain

When I was so sick and I couldn’t catch my breath
And all the air around me was tinted with my death
And no one could come near me and I was all alone
My pockets filled with money and nothing to spend it on

Our hands our feet our hearts ain’t they all the same
If you were left out here with me wouldn’t you feel the rain

When I was so helpless and I had lost my voice
And I was so frightened by all the hateful noise
When I couldn’t bear to raise my head above the safety of the mud
And I simply sank below the surface never to come up