Ballad of the Muted

Beryl Darton “Mysterious Identity”

Up the steep stairs
painted white by former slaves,
you twist the handle
as if breaking off grapes.
You ask, “What day is it?”
but their faces are graves,
whiteness a tombstone
amidst forgotten prayers.

Because something is buried here,
but you don’t know what it is.
Do you, Mr. Smith?

You look for a chair
to rest your wounded knee,
the overgrown trail
full of feathers and tepees.
You ask, “Are you native?
to a warrior with smallpox disease.
Your whiteness a roaring rapid
by a river of blood-red hair.

Because something is buried here,
but you don’t know what it is.
Do you, Mr.Smith?

Crazy carny music
calls you towards a booth,
the African Dodger baseballs
laid out on display.
“Three for five cents!”
A dark face without a tooth;
the coon is finally out its cage.
A hit! Cheering makes you sick.

Because something is buried here,
but you don’t know what it is.
Do you, Mr. Smith?

The backyard’s high-fenced,
papers stamped by patrol
prying children from their folk.
Guns and spotlights in faces,
“Documents!” “Investigations!”
Bodies doing barrel rolls,
foil blankets placed in plastic cages.
Throats and hearts pushed up against.

Because something is buried here,
but you don’t know what it is.
Do you, Mr. Smith?

The green glow of night
“A Jap’s A Jap” look at his eyes,
roll calls behind barbed wire.
“You can’t feel sorry for yourself.”
Dusty pipes produce no water
Shikata ga nai—It can’t be helped.
Swallow stolen lives with pride
keep yourself from fright.

Because something is buried here,
but you don’t know what it is.
Do you, Mr. Smith?

© khartless 2021, All Rights Reserved


Late Night After Midnight Radio Show set to air July 13th.

Inspired by Bob Dylan’s “Ballad to a Thin Man”

“Ballad Of A Thin Man”
By Bob Dylan

You walk into the room
With your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you, you say, “Who is that man?”
You try so hard
But you don’t understand
Just what you will say
When you get home

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

You raise up your head
And you ask, “Is this where it is?”
And somebody points to you and says
“It’s his”
And you say, “What’s mine?”
And somebody else says, “Well what is?”
And you say, “Oh my God
Am I here all alone?”

But something is happening
And you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

You hand in your ticket
And you go watch the geek
Who immediately walks up to you

When he hears you speak
And says, “How does it feel
To be such a freak?”
And you say, “Impossible”
As he hands you a bone

And something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

You have many contacts
Among the lumberjacks
To get you facts
When someone attacks your imagination
But nobody has any respect
Anyway they already expect you
To all give a check

To tax-deductible charity organizations
You’ve been with the professors
And they’ve all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have
Discussed lepers and crooks
You’ve been through all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
You’re very well read
It’s well known

But something is happening here
And you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Well, the sword swallower, he comes up to you
And then he kneels
He crosses himself
And then he clicks his high heels
And without further notice
He asks you how it feels
And he says, “Here is your throat back
Thanks for the loan”

And you know something is happening
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Now you see this one-eyed midget
Shouting the word “NOW”
And you say, “For what reason?”
And he says, “How?”
And you say, “What does this mean?”
And he screams back, “You’re a cow
Give me some milk
Or else go home”

And you know something’s happening
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Well, you walk into the room
Like a camel and then you frown
You put your eyes in your pocket
And your nose on the ground
There ought to be a law
Against you comin’ around
You should be made
To wear earphones

‘Cause something is happening
And you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

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