Thursday, October 21, 2010

Blues from San Jose

I'm late, I'm tired, no clever header. This is word and question.

I really, really hate the word plenitude. It's one of my reactionary habits.

My question is probably obvious.

On my way from San Jose
My mind on blues and sin
I met an ass with much to say
Of what he'd done and where he'd been
He sought "a plenitude of drink and lights
And debauchery in San Jose"
And asked me, whether left or right
To send him on his merry way
I thought it odd, this prating ass
And the city of lights, or death
Was, I suppose, his way to pass
For something human, something with breath
Though from his tales he seemed
A dark and wicked, violent thing
With little air of kindness, and in his eye a gleam
I thought he'd gladly tear me, and all the while sing
Of thirty-twos and twenties,
And break my back in two.
But he'd not seen the dark behind me
And in a fit of orn'ry, loathing blues
I spit upon the ass's face
And prayed to San Jose
A good death to die, in grace
For I'd not show the way.


  1. +JMJ+

    May I say I actually like this one? It's very surreal, yes, but I think that's the key to its charm. The irrational dream imagery--which promises that it will make sense if I try looking harder--just won me over.

    And being the little Philistine that I am, it was not The Quest for St. Aquin that was on my mind when I read this, but the song Do You Know the Way to San Jose? =P

  2. Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. It's actually grown on me a little bit. I was mostly afraid that with so many obscure notions tumbling about it'd be something that no one could like unless they understood where I was going with it. I even have a backstory in mind that's not even touched.

    And yes, that was actually my question (the song). And to be fair the St. Aquin thing was pretty vague and rested only on the talking ass, so I don't think it's Philistine to pass it up for the central theme.

  3. I want to study this. (That's a compliment, by the way.) I want to keep digging until I "get" it, all the layers and complexities. Wonderful job.

  4. I'm glad I didn't offer "plenitude" as a word! Although I don't think I would have minded receiving it. You made the word fit into a wonderful iambic line!

    The question isn't that obvious -- at least, not to me.

    Am intrigued by the line about "thirty-twos and twenties," without knowing for sure to what it refers.

    All of the above is by way of saying: Well done!

  5. Oh, now I see -- the song title WAS the question! Okay. (I should have read the comment thread with greater care!)

  6. Ellen, don't dig too deep, you might find something that ain't there (I already thought of a way to retcon in a meaning that I didn't have when I wrote it). But, at the same time, there is a lot going on, I guess, what with the mix of surrealism, blues, sci-fi, and the prayer at the end. Here's a question, is the ass an actual talking donkey, or just a person? I'm curious how people read it.

    Dylan, thanks, I hope I didn't offend whoever offered up that word. I've certainly thrown harder contributions into the pile ("What are you doing on Parchman farm?" comes to mind). I think what I hated about it this time was that the only rhymes I could think of were fortitude, aptitude, and attitude, and they all sounded cheap.

    Concerning thirty-twos and twenties, it's from an old blues song:

    "If she gets unruly, and thinks she don't want do
    Take my 32-20 and cut her half in two."

    As my brother once said "rap ain't got shit on Robert Johnson".

  7. You made me laugh out loud at the last sentence of the previous comment. I liked the poem, by the way. I only wish I could say I taught you.

  8. I love the fact that I got quoted. :D You make me out to be so deep.

  9. +JMJ+

    No, Dauvit, I'm not offended that you found my word so challenging! ;-)

    It happened to be one of my favourite words that week. I just kept saying it over and over to myself. As for what I received . . . well, I wasn't too crazy about "milquetoast," either. =P And one reason my poem took so long was that I kept thinking, "milquetoast metaphor . . . milquetoast metaphor . . . milquetoast metaphor," and couldn't find another groove.

    One person's "cellar door" is another person's "WTH?" I guess. =)

  10. A fellow Hoosier! (I'm from the Indy area, but currently transplanted in Boston.) And you got my question... sorry, was in a very silly mood the day I submitted it. I really like this poem. It almost seems like a modern Chaucer rendering with a little Bob Dylan mixed in for fun. That's combining two very neat things. I like the tone and style of the narration.

  11. Mom,

    You did teach me to love language, even if it wasn't on purpose.


    Yeah, deep stuff, I look for chances to use that quote whenever I can.


    Good, glad I didn't offend. It's probably good I left off my original rant against the word (I'm linguistically prejudiced, what can I say). Milquetoast is a great word, but I think it would've been harder to use, though you handled it brilliantly. Things worked out, I reckon.


    Well... I'm transplanted here, so I don't know if I'll ever call myself a Hoosier. I'm a Georgia boy through and through - 'cept for the grits. I'm glad you liked the poem! And, thanks for the question, it worked beautifully.