Sad Song

— Thanks to Bukka White & Julia Fields

Ghost Girls
of Kansas City,
northern Jersey, central
Georgia,
where you are flesh
you inhabit the pimp’s embrace.
Where you are flesh,
Manitoba, West Virginia,
tens on twenties on turnpikes to the motel
you go for his mink,
for his chromium cane,
you go for things that help you hold on,
dresses, tables, meals, time
to dream in his El Dorado.

Ghost Girls of South Carolina, please sit up and listen;
this is no indictment. This is only
fact and it is strange
how gentle things like flowers
like songbird songs like childhood
mornings are the same
as his hard earned gifts,
an encouraging word, a room,
a shower, a gold plated lighter, a gown.

You don’t live off of flowers,
don’t live off of songs,
don’t stay a child all of your life.
So the sadness of my song
is the failure of my vision
of you as the children
of the ideal loving parents,
is the failure of love
and its harsh manipulation;
the pimp is holding you closely
in the dark of his all night sex,
the future drawing you on to become
a ghost, to lose control,
to be pushed around
as a matter of survival;
the sadness is the lack of power
to make it otherwise.

Ghost Girls of Minnesota, you are not alone.
It is 4:15
in the telephone ad-room.
Star Alexander, a year out of high school,
waits for the phone.
4:22.
Nothing.
She smokes a long cigarette.
4:26.
She is paid
for each minute,
paid like the rest,
everyone of us
a beggar.
Star,
I multiply you
times the birth rate and death rate.
The world is a room.
The world, the room,
Ghost Girl Star,
is vanishing
under your smoke and the thoughts
you hide, under
the total product
of our lives.

Ghost Girls of Western Long Island,
Buenas Aires, Saluda, Richmond, Virginia,

Rene Allen
is gone,
qualuded out on the living room couch.
The TV is on.
The voice that bumps against her is the voice
she’s tried to cultivate,
voice of an actress, one
of those people,
the ones we know are real
somewhere. Ghostly,
fading,
Rene, where?

Ghost Girls of mid-state Missouri,
insurance men of Sioux Falls,
podunk mayors, steady handed sharks,
all weak at the center, all fading
like the weather, all bring themselves
to bear in the face of one more lady:
Jesse, by the track.
Her man’s looking for dimes.
She’s worried about what time
the train will arrive.
We’ve been singing about Jesse
for a long time now.
We treat her like Hell.
then moan when she’s gone.

She heads for the stationmaster.
“What time does the train come in?”

Cool, tall, the stationmaster
points toward the track.

“Go lean your head down, baby.
When the rail starts popping
you know that train is near.
When you hear that whistle
you know damn well it’s here.
That’s how we tell time.
Don’t need no clocks or watches.
Train time’s our time.
Brings the bacon home.”

All these guys are assholes.
Jesse finds a seat when the train arrives.
She falls asleep beside a stranger.

Ghost Girls of Mississippi,
Gnome, Chicago, New York,
Ghost Girls of California,
Indiana, Sao Paulo, Quito, Spain,

stuck between details
and always ridden down
by facts, by flesh
that brings you to this song,

It is love, love, love!
that fills your fleeting
with such sorrow.