Camden Town

Photo by Burst on
Photo by Dom Gould on

There’s a lot going on in the Cosmos. Tonight we have a New Moon, which signifies a rebirth. As I’ve been reading about these transits and studying astrology this year and all of these cycles are beginning and ending, I come back to where some of those cycles started for me and where they led. This poem I wrote in lockdown, and it’s a shout out to the kid I was at twenty years old. I’m still him, but he was brave. He had big dreams. He took me a lot of places, and I fucking love that kid. I hope the best parts of his energy show up in some of these new energy cycles because he was pretty great. This poem is for that kid! I’m always happy to see him in myself!

Camden Town

Surely, if I recall your red dirt colored boots that demanded
A toe tap, just as each note of rain demands a sound
when it hits the thirsty earth and makes its presence known. Camden London,
it was actually raining. I knew nothing of the blues or the American south,
or how the harmonica can come into a song and just take you
to the crackle of a bonfire, underneath middle of nowhere skies.
The sound of the snaps and crackles as satisfying as licking your lips
after a fine slice of truck stop pie. I was such an apple pie/ice cream
kid from the north. Raised in a mill town, where pancakes
are the size of manhole covers and always come with crispy hash browns,
watching you halfway across the world perform in some seedy little club. That night,
in my flat, and for the next six months, you sung me to sleep,
walked me through the rainy London streets, made me begin to wonder
of my own country, I had never seen. What of those sweet southern breezes
and those Tennessee towns where the roots of American music sprout,
so easily. We grew, you and I.
You brought rock and roll into the heart of a broken America that
I returned home to. I wanted your record player and your flag bedspread.
I blared you through the neighborhood like a tornado siren. Announcing,
I was going to find America and it was going to find me.
You came to California shotgun in my car, leaving behind
love for the idea of wanderlust you sang about on every record.
The girls in Hollywood made a mess out of you, and we both spent a few nights
wondering how the Pacific stays so always blue? So,
I packed my suitcase and headed to the south in need of some Magnolias
and some blues I could find nowhere else. Every night,
Mama found Jesus at the end of her blue’s set, and I clung tighter
to a girl I would learn too late, loved me best. You went north,
sang some ballads about Manhattan, as she sat in my arms
comfortable as that bourbon glass sat on top your piano.
We entered our thirties both stuffed in a trunk. I listened
to you look out over the lakes of ice as I ran along side them.
My heart, frozen like a Northwoods lake, by a marriage that felt like
that foot you put forward next when you know the air is warming
and any weight could crack an opening, swallowing you whole
into a frigid drowning. It was get off the ice or fall in the drink.
It was your voice, tinged with that southern heat,
that reminded me of that kid in Camden years ago, who
you taught to jump trains, to get to the American dream.
I did that. I even jumped ship and sailed halfway around the world.
Laying in Hawaiian sands, I longed more than anything for those train tracks,
those highway lines, the nights spent holding a girl
in a truck stop motel, who understood how to make a kid
from a mill town feel like something special. You and I,
we’re older now. I can see you, truly for who you are,
A lonely guy from a small town with dream and a guitar,
who dreamed America big. We both did.
We both know the more amazing and vast a space is,
the greater the chance you’ll become lost
and find your heart off the grid. Still,
I turn your records on tonight because
you’re a familiar voice, and right now,
I’m just as misplaced as I was that first night when
A Midwestern mill town kid found himself
at rock and roll show in Camden,
accidentally discovering America there.

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