– William Stafford, from Across Kansas
as it rises in the Delta, in the Piedmont, in the Panhandle,
So long as he raises the questions that bubble beneath
the surface wherever shell-shocked citizens collect,
Bob Dylan songs ring true, so long as they comport
with Common Sense, Bob Dylan songs ring a bell.
But, when he finds red stripes in the American flag*
and sets out to alert his beleaguered sisters and brothers
That unseen actors wreak havoc, Bossman says no,
that song must go, but you can stay Bob Dylan, you can stay, just
So long as you play in the space laid aside for Minstrels and Rogues,
for Beatles and Jesters, where the Song ‘n Dance man rules the roost.
*CBS revoked its invitation for Bob Dylan to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show in May, 1963, because Dylan wanted to play “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues.” Thus allowed to gestate in the shadows, the John Birch Society morphed into today’s Republican Party. Remember kids, “He who pays the piper, calls the tune.” The network ran a piece on the Birchers some months later, remember? Of course not, but you wouldn’t have been able to get Dylan’s song out of your head.
While Bob Dylan disclaims use of the Welsh poet’s name, we cop gladly to lifting this Dylan Thomas title: A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London
My family slept those level miles
but like a bell rung deep till dawn
I drove down an aisle of sound,
nothing real but in the bell,
past the town where I was born.
Once you cross a land like that
you own your face more; what the light
struck told a self, every rock
denied all the rest of the world.
We stopped at Sharon Springs and ate –
My state still dark, my dream to long to tell.