Do you hear what I hear?
Several mornings a week, I spend 30 to 45 minutes on an Elliptical jogging machine, getting the old ticker working, burning off a bit of the dinner wine, firing the synapses in my aging muscles. As with most folks, I have established a routine, which includes reading the current novel in the Kindle queue (last two were part of the Tubby Dubonnet series by Tony Dunbar. A delightful, endearingly simply style!) and listening to music on my phone.
I always set my iTunes player to “shuffle,” because I know there’s nothing bad on my list, and I like to be surprised. Still, it’s kind of spooky the way some come up more than others. A lot more.
Lately, I’ve been treated to replays of one of the greatest CDs ever recorded in the history of music. I speak, of course, of Bob Dylan’s BLOOD ON THE TRACKS. While listening once again to the eloquent belligerence of Idiot Wind, I was restruck by the extraordinary cadence of Dylan’s lyrics, and how he weaves his poetry into the music syllable-by-syllable. Especially in this particular song, which I would describe as the nasty rant of a bitter man.
Whether you know the song or not, I hope you will treat yourself to it here, and read the lyrics as you listen. I’m pasting the entire song (which is quite lengthy), but as you can see, I’ve formatted and punctuated it as though it were a poison pen letter – to make my final point:
Someone’s got it in for me, they’re planting stories in the press. Whoever it is, I wish they’d cut it out quick; but when they will, I can only guess.
They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy. She inherited a million bucks and when she died, it came to me.
I can’t help it if I’m lucky.
People see me all the time, and they just can’t remember how to act. Their minds are filled with big ideas, images and distorted facts.
Even you, yesterday, you had to ask me where it was at. I couldn’t believe after all these years, you didn’t know me better than that. Sweet lady.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth! Blowing down the backroads headin’ south. Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth! You’re an idiot, babe It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.
I ran into the fortune-teller, who said beware of lightning that might strike. I haven’t known peace and quiet for so long, I can’t remember what it’s like. There’s a lone soldier on the cross, smoke pourin’ out of a boxcar door. You didn’t know it, you didn’t think it could be done, in the final end he won the wars, after losin’ every battle.
I woke up on the roadside, daydreamin’ ’bout the way things sometimes are. Visions of your chestnut mare shoot through my head and are makin’ me see stars. You hurt the ones that I love best, and cover up the truth with lies. One day you’ll be in the ditch, flies buzzin’ around your eyes, blood on your saddle.
Idiot wind, blowing through the flowers on your tomb. Blowing through the curtains in your room. Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth. You’re an idiot, babe . It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.
It was gravity which pulled us down, and destiny which broke us apart. You tamed the lion in my cage, but it just wasn’t enough to change my heart. Now everything’s a little upside down, as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped. What’s good is bad, what’s bad is good, you’ll find out when you reach the top, you’re on the bottom.
I noticed at the ceremony, your corrupt ways had finally made you blind! I can’t remember your face anymore, your mouth has changed, your eyes don’t look into mine. The priest wore black on the seventh day and sat stone-faced while the building burned. I waited for you on the running boards, near the cypress trees, while the springtime turned slowly into Autumn.
Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull. From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol. Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth. You’re an idiot, babe. It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.
I can’t feel you anymore, I can’t even touch the books you’ve read. Every time I crawl past your door, I been wishin’ I was somebody else instead. Down the highway, down the tracks, down the road to ecstasy, I followed you beneath the stars, hounded by your memory, and all your ragin’ glory.
I’ve been double-crossed now for the very last time, and now I’m finally free! I kissed goodbye the howling beast, on the borderline which separated you from me.
You’ll never know the hurt I suffered, nor the pain I rise above . And I’ll never know the same about you, your holiness or your kind of love, and it makes me feel so sorry.
Idiot wind, blowing through the buttons of our coats. Blowing through the letters that we wrote.
Idiot wind, blowing through the dust upon our shelves.
We’re idiots, babe. It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves
I do this as a superb example about the importance of cadence, word choice, sentence length, pacing and rhythm. One doesn’t write line-by-line, but syllable-by-syllable.
I can’t listen to music while I write – not even instrumental music. I am too distracted by it. Yet I know that in the silence, there is a melody running through my mind that I really can’t turn off. Sometimes, when I am writing, I imagine that the words that come out are following some cadence or melody I cannot hear. I am conscious of its presence, but I do not hear the notes. Once, I saw the words in a line as though they were notes on a staff. Kind of like this:
Weird, I know. In any event, perhaps one day I will hear the melody one day, and a story will become a song.
The next time you’re reading something you like, see if you can hear the melody, feel the beat. Tell me I’m a kook, go ahead.
Have you checked out FULL IRISH yet? It’s a hearty meal!
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