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Songs

I wrote the lyrics for the following songs mostly in my 20s. I was doing poetry performances in Philly in the late 70s and began singing with a band, The Sea of Hands, who accompanied me, before doing songs of their own. It would only be later when I was in my 50s and learned to play the guitar well enough to work out chord arrangements that I composed the songs in their entirety, music with lyrics. A strong lyric by itself can be a poem, but it really needs that added stream of sound to carry it along. Here finally are a few finished songs that hopefully and happily you will give a listen to when you have the time. All things come to those who wait is a comforting thought, but I think the dead might disagree. I have about six more songs to finish and then who knows? maybe I will write some more. Finishing what you begin is work, but it is also a matter of luck. At the moment I am lucky.



Daddy Long Legs Blues


Daddy long legs hanging upside down my door
Daddy long legs hanging upside down my door
Came to tell me you won’t be back anymore

Floating, floating like a drowned man on the sea
Floating, floating like a drowned man on the sea
Now it doesn’t matter if all the waves come cover me

Don’t leave me, baby, I don’t know what I’ll do
Don’t leave me, baby, I don’t know what I’ll do
I can’t leave this place, there’s not one door to walk through

When you’ve filled your teacup, one tear overflows
And all your joys rise past their brims, spilling you to sorrow
Ah, but you just wipe as you weep as you wipe up the mess
Lay your head upon the table

Daddy long legs, go away from door
Daddy long legs, go away from door
Once you know what the truth is, you don’t need to hear it anymore


Blue Sorrow Green Sorrow


You didn’t stay to sleep
I’m left with nothing to keep
as my windows fill with the dawn
Shall I lie still or rise
forget now or wonder why
already, already you’ve gone?

Who was it who spoke
through the wine and the smoke?
I recall three words and spare change
holding hands at our knees
so the drunks wouldn’t see
then stopping to kiss in the rain

Blue Sorrow, green sorrow
red sorrow tomorrow
What was it I wanted to say?
Good-bye is a whore
I’ve had her before
She slips so softly away

Dear Moses, strike the stone
draw the water from our souls
Your wandering multitude thirsts
I saw it come on black wings
take some children and Mr. King
but nothing and nobody heard

Blue sorrow, green sorrow
red sorrow tomorrow
What was it I wanted to say?
All these words that I sing
only cover the thing
and hide it completely away


Going Back to Work


Black morning coffee, yes, I’m walking
Subway sleeping, no one talking
Everyday and everyday, it never ends
I spend my time with locks and keys
in a ghetto factory
and every morning it’s back to work again

Lunchtime the ladies say,
“The war was over yesterday.”
But I say, “No, we”ll shake and shake to the bitter end.
Dropping bombs, chopping hands
never changed the heart of man
Tomorrow morning it’s back to work again.”

Going back, I’m going back
Lord, Lord, I’m going back
Going back going back going back to work again
Old Sisyphus did fine
pushing one rock all the time
And I’m going back, going back to work again

On the A train riding home
I saw Jesus casting stones
I cried, “Lord, you said that was a sin.”
He said, “Son, I guess that’s so
but I never said I couldn’t throw
Now you get on back, get on back to work again.”

A cool dark well I thought I found
Deep and wide, I could not drown
Quenched all my sorrows at my rainbow’s end
Hold me, honey, squeeze me tight,
see if we can’t make it last all night
Tomorrow morning it’s back to work again


Friday Night Apocalypse Stew


A white trash witch named Dolly was my baby
Every day she read my cards
She said, “Don, soon the end’s gonna come
And the end is often hard
Though to begin or end are painlessly the same
Most of us only get as far
As a sacrificial torture rack before nothingness
Life the whip lash, we the scar.”

And Dolly had a baby
Uncircumcised she raised him up
She said, “Liberty’s desire manifested physically
Boy, you walk the streets with a hard-on.”
Then she conjured up a thunderstorm
Consumed its fire, drank its rain
That was when some Christians came
To burn a cross and pray
Well, the cross burned so bright that though it was night
Well, it could have been the day
When Dolly, “Son, there’s no right or wrong
You can do just what you want, baby
But watch a blind child tear apart what is closest to his heart
See his hate intensely loving
In his oven jelly-rolling Jews, baby.”

The Fuehrer and his lady
Thought it best to rise at dawn
To pour the gas and strike the match
An put their makeup on.
The Pekinese was barking
Such a cute dog, so well bred
Isn’t it the perfect day
To put a bullet through his head?

“O dear Eva, we make such a pretty flame
But don’t you know for one more kiss
Well, I’d do it all again
Though I’d be careful who I swallowed
I’d be sure with whom I ate
And I’d always know who I was gunning down
When I did it in the street
No, it’s never wise to hypnotize
Those who walk a vicious dog
Or seek them follow those silent souls
Who write their talking on the walls
They don’t mean anything at all
Walls crumble after all
Just like when empires fall
They don’t mean anything at all.”


The Water’s Work Song


My love, I would tarry
awhile on your mouth
To lie here beside you
is all that I want
but if I don’t go build
a house in the lane
we will freeze when it snows
and sneeze when it rains

A house you can make
with much thought and sweat
To make a handshake
is much harder yet
And much harder still
is to live till you’re dead
but the hardest is giving
without wanting to get

I took my noon rest
by a mountain stream
and watched how the water
touches all things
as it splashes down
among slippery stones
for frogs to jump in
and skin to shine on

Poured from my mouth
and rolled my eyes
for birds who leave
no trace in the sky
for Sir Rattlesnake
crawling alone
and the winter weary
foaling doe


Sweet Little Angel

My take on a Roosevelt Sykes song called Calcutta.


I gotta sweet little angel
Sweeter than apple butter
I gotta sweet little angel
Sweeter than apple butter
Just flew in
All the way from Calcutta

I love you, love you, love you, honey
That’s what I told him
I love you, love you, love you, honey
That’s what I told him
Come on, let’s get married
Before you get another day older

You’re my only passion
There ain’t any other
You’re my only passion
There ain’t any other
I’m gonna love you today
I’m gonna love you tomorrow

It’s been raining all morning
Hour after hour
Been raining all morning
Hour after hour
You can hold me, honey
I’ll be your umbrella

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

I gotta sweet little angel
Sweeter than apple butter
I gotta sweet little angel
Sweeter than apple butter
Just flew in
All the way from Calcutta


Sweet Mary


I lived at home as a young man
full of fears that paralyze
I was a believer in truth
and the truth was a lie
then I slept with Sweet Mary
and she made me realize
there are more ways to be born
than there are ways to die

When I was a young boy
I could count one to ten
I caught snakes in glass jars
and kept them for friends
A glass jar’s good intentions
but no natural bed
coiled and uncoiling
and your days never end

I saw the black bird on the sapling
I saw the snake on the stone
Black bird flew down
and took him for her own
That’s the world turns,
that’s the way we must go
You can never be free
till you can be swallowed whole

I’ve stayed true to Sweet Mary
she hides my pain when I call
Her throat’s like cold whiskey
she’s my wailing wall
And her breasts turn the leaves
spin you dreams where they fall
Go to her forgotten and empty
She will give you them all


Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow

My take on the Carter Family song.


My heart is sad and I am lonely
For the only one I love
When will I see her?
Oh no, no never
Unless it’s in heaven above

She told me that she loved me only
How could I believe her untrue?
Until today a neighbor told me
She’s been untrue to you

Bury me under the weeping willow
Under the weeping willow tree
When she hears there I am sleeping
Perhaps she’ll weep over me

Tomorrow was our wedding day
Oh where oh where is she?
Gone to find her another lover
She cares no more for me

Bury me under the weeping willow
Under the weeping willow tree
When she hears there I am sleeping
Perhaps she’ll weep over me

Undertaker, undertaker
Undertaker, please drive slow
The body that you carry
Oh I hate to see it go

When she hears there I am sleeping
Perhaps she’ll weep over me.


Wild Rose


When I remember how it used to be
I get the taste of dry wine on my tongue
and I wonder, baby, I wonder what it was went wrong
You were never something I did just for fun
You were never something
that was here and then was gone

Sometimes I get so lonely
I want to feel you going in me deep
Sometimes I get so strung out
I don’t know what to give or what to keep
Then I wish you were a hummingbird
I wish I was where you came to sleep

When I remember how it used to be
It just seems so bad
and I don’t know how such happiness
can turn out so sad
I guess you never really needed me
but you were all I had

My love was like a wild rose
closed its petals in the rain
You came like the morning
unfolding me again
I don’t think there’s another one
who can make me feel the same
No, I don’t think there’s another one
who can make me feel the same

Performance Poster by Patricia Kelly


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