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AFTE: 0 I BY JOE ELY Bonfire of Roadmaps “LAREDO EAST AND WEST” No time to unpack, it’s off to New York The Coast is Clear like the voice of Joan Baez With whom I share a radio show James McMurtry is there in all his Beatness Singing a song about Levelland I feel in another era, like a hillbilly, Transported New York takes me in her arms and tells me Close your eyes, it’ll be all right in the Morning.. . For the next two weeks I lay down my pen I have bounced between Oceans so quickly That I can only observe from second to second The colors of Autumn have set the East Coast on Fire And set my wild mind to Reeling We passed thru the Graffiti of Pittsburgh The Birch Streets of Old Alexandria And dined in the World Caf in Philadelphia, PA We shouted in the Pearl Streets of Northampton But The Egg of Albany fried our Ass And took a coat of paint off of the Tioga Ballroom Up in Portland, Raoul had a fallin’ out with Charles And he let ’em have it, drivin’ off into the Muddy Night Mama Kin danced with Steel Shoes in Bloody Boston And wouldn’t stop until the Cowgirls wrestled Alligators We were pickin’ up steam in each new Joint The Band was startin’ to Sweat, And the Sweat was startin’ to Show Reeling through the musical hills of sweet Vermont All pain subsided and I was able to breathe a Slow Sigh The flaming landscape saturated my spirit Transforming my eyes into vast nets of ethereal mist My journey was only beginning, I told myself A ramblin’ man must pursue his harmony And take refuge in beauty and balance And when the Sap starts to Flow in the Maples Then it’s damn well time to make Syrup… Burlington is a name I know from the Railroads I remember catching a Burlington Northern Freight Having no Idea whether Burlington itself Was a town, a sweater, or a mountain The name itself had a kind of Magic, Like Santa Fe and Rock Island of Old Gangs of bored teenagers roamed downtown Each armed with studied nonchalance Feigning detachment on the Surface Yet terrified of the Very World just below the Skin The boys, repositories of dammed up testosterone And the girls, secretly desperate to be Wanted Dancing the Eternal Dance of Aggression and Indifference Not unlike the mating ritual of the Crocodile Maybe a bit more Dangerous and Deadly Another drive the next day across the breathtaking hills Zigzagging from Vermont to Connecticut Into New London at dark, blowing another tire Reminding us that we all were beginning to suffer From a serious case of Severed Valve Stem The Tioga Ballroom wobbled into Manhattan Like a frightened Dinosaur into a Tar Pit Knowing fool well it was eminently out of place But sensing the presence of fellow creatures Waded in up to its virtual neck And shivered in the bog daring God and Good Sense No sooner than the Sleep was scraped from our Eyes And the spiders chased from our Brains Did we find ourselves on Conan O’Brien Being Irish, I’m sure he understood the concept Of dancing a happy jig in a stadium full of Cobwebs And so we present, on National Television, A story of a Refugee pining for his Lover A half a World away, in the Back Streets of Laredo The Singer jumped bail from a Barney Fife jail To cross the River of Tears and No Return You don’t just leave Manhattan, you escape Through a series of mazes and passwords To exit through Spanish Harlem takes nerve Many men tried and many men failed To find the bridge to lead them from their failure We sail out across New Jersey, where the West begins Headed for Kentucky where they make Jim Beam The East is heavy with many Gravities of old Pulling against newer Gravities, Television, Film and Internet At the Pennsylvania border the restraint is gone As we coast through nature’s glorious labyrinth By Ohio we are bleary and starting to unravel Charles scours the Interstate for a place to crash For three hours, all we see are no vacancy signs Every motel is spilling over with refugees like us 38 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 12, 2007