That Damn Wind: Ode to a Minnesota Ghost

Windy winter night
And your head’s not quite right,
And the vigor inside you is receding,
In the mirror by the stairs,
It is unruly gray hairs
That your tired eyes are seeing.

You’ve tried to stay fit,
Worked at your wit,
But often your juice isn’t flowing.
Because the things you try,
And the stuff you buy,
Doesn’t tell you where you should be going.

You work through your head,
But it leaves you numb instead,
Sometimes your kindness stops showing,
And you feel separate and apart,
As if something turned off your heart,
And your mind like cut grass has stopped growing.

Are your ideals clichéd or stale?
Have your feet strayed off the trail?
Is the world sadly unchanged?
Seems it’s war after war,
(No why or what the fighting’s for,)
Are the borders just rearranged?

And the kids won’t march,
Have they lost all their starch?
(Most likely they just stopped caring.)
It’s at I Pads they stroke,
And at I phones they poke,
And at screens everywhere they are staring.

The poor don’t have a chance,
The rich own the dance,
Do you know which side you should be sharing?
The sky’s gray with dirt,
Stream and oceans are hurt,
And at the forests the chainsaws are tearing.

Maybe you’ve tried the Bible or the Koran,
It makes no difference; there’s no great plan.
You could feel like King Lear in the tempest.
Maddened and cold,
No way your fate to be told,
Can you just find a place to rest?

Well if you’re feeling tired,
And needing to be inspired,
Listen hard! One’s still out there.
Trying each night,
To sing songs that ring right
And falling asleep on the road somewhere.

He travels in the wind like a ghost,
Driving on coast to coast,
Be heedful! Or you will miss him.
Sometimes his voice is spent,
Sometimes he’s stick braced and bent.
He’s like an aging but relentless pilgrim.

He doesn’t stop when he’s sad,
Or the sound system is bad,
And the audience is listless or drunk.
He tries new songs,
About rights and wrongs,
Men murdered, ships sunk.

He reminds you of days,
Long ago in the haze,
Where each soul was facing doom;
When the snap of the whip,
Or a mob losing its grip,
Left widows slain: children in the tomb.

When the battle was over and all felt lost,
When love only came at a mortal cost,
When humankind stood on the brink.
When all would quake,
And each was judged for his mistake,
Because the Book of Life dripped red ink.

He doesn’t make small talk,
Won’t into your houses walk,
But you are surrounded by his spirit.
His songs unfurl what’s been repressed,
Like secrets you’ve kept close to the vest
Each refrain that well knows you as you hear it.

So when the fire is cold as a stone
And you are feeling alone and on your own
When the candle’s flame is stopped glowing,
Maybe a prayer can help you cope,
Send it out like a breath of hope against hope;

Is that wind still out there blowing?
That damn wind my friend, still out there blowing?

— For Tom Graham. Mike Cohen, 2017

Leave a comment