BETWEEN THE WARS (lyrics) –Vol. I & Vol. II

The Gothic Cowboy (aka Melvin Litton)

 

 

Border Blues

m.litton

 

You started out one morning, you faced the dust ‘n wind

The desert sun was bearing down, you swore you’d never bend

You passed by many pilgrims fallen in the sand

Their skull ‘n bones and broken dreams line the borders of this land

 

You’ve got your regrets, yeah, you’ve got your deceits

You’ve been on the trail so long, you’ve forgotten what you seek

The moon is on the skyline, the wind is howling low

The shadows of nightfall echo the borders of your soul

 

(chorus): You’ve got the border blues, border blues

Stare into the bottle, fade in the ruins

Of those border blues, border blues

She’ll find another victim and never leave a clue

 

You met out on the edge one night, she offered you her flesh

Her movements so catlike it stole your very breath

She whispered for you to come, to come to her and play

And feed her your passion on the border where she lays

 

Now you enter her heartless room up that back-alley stair

Where the door eclipses the light of day, you search but she’s not there

The depot is silent, and the train no longer comes

From day to day you pace ‘n wait on another border run

(chorus)

 

The memory keeps gnawing like a rodent in the wall

A melody, an imagery that shatters as you fall

You gather all the pieces like drops of gutter wine

To dull the bitter ache of these lonely border nights

 

She stood there at the window as the evening sky burned red

She reached to draw the curtain and nothing more was said

Now the past is on you and gaining every day

Best hide your tracks, ride hard, boy, slip the border, get away

 

From those border blues, border blues…

 

 

 

Pretty Mary

m.litton

 

In a pickup with my brother, driving down a country road

He said, A buffalo hunter farmed this land once long ago

There’s mosaic in the wheat this year, the harvest is looking poor

Like a curse been hanging on this land since that hunter hung his faithless whore

 

They say he was a mean man and mighty handy with a gun

He’d sooner shoot a man down as watch a rabbit run

They never even dared come after him when he made his pretty wife a ghost

For running off with the hired man ‘n five thousand in gold

 

(chorus): Her name was Mary, pretty Mary, see that dust devil in the wind

Her name was Mary, pretty Mary, still dancing her last dance for him

 

He caught them by the river, there he let the man go free

Then he hung a lariat rope from the limb of a cottonwood tree

He said, You’ll dance this dance for me, you’ll dance never more for him…

As her dancing feet left the ground, he watched her struggle end

 

Then he left her body hanging, but her spirit trailed him home

As he poured a glass of whiskey, he swore he saw her shadowed form

He locked each door behind him, still she followed room to room

Soon the mansion he’s built for her was closed up like a tomb

(chorus)

 

No, he never went to prison, he hired a lawyer to get him off

But he signed his land all over to cover the legal cost

He died insane in a poorhouse, now he’s buried in a pauper’s grave

His hanging whore has cursed this land to our very day

 

Her name was Mary, pretty Mary…

 

 

 

Between the Wars

m.litton

 

He served in a squad of brave young men trained hard as tempered steel

They knifed right in, fell ‘n bled like oil from a busted wheel

Now they lay up in those boneyards, and on that great black marble wall

Behind their names you’ll see his face still haunted by it all…

 

When Johnny came marching home, he was crazy from the time he served

He walked outside the bus depot and sat alone upon the curb

In the Far East Asian jungle, victory finally crumbled

So they shipped the army back home in the dark

One by one the boys returned to the factories, streets and farms

On the uniform in the photograph there’s a silver star and a ranger badge

But his smile is twisted angry like scar

On Veteran’s Day the old parade but no one shouts “Hip-hip hurrah!”

They keep the windows rolled up on the cars

O Johnny, just what did you expect

They’ll never march in step between the wars

 

Love of country was the curse that carried you off to war

Peace becomes a bitter word when you don’t know what you’re fighting for

If you can’t live for Jesus, make up any reason

Pick an easy number to divide

Throw away your memories, man, it’s time to come alive

Yeah, you can make it happen, it only takes adapting

To the motorcycle cowboy disguise

If you’re tired of your burden, drop it like a curtain

Show the world your silhouette then fly

O Johnny, you’re running with the wind

You never break, you bend between the wars

 

They can’t tame you, rambling man, but it’s true you have to pay the toll

They may fence ‘n farm the land, but that ol’ dust will always blow

Staring at the sun too long, drifting till you can’t hold on

Dodging every hurdle in your path

When you feel your thoughts start closing in, you simply shoot the gap

Smugglers roam the highways, plowmen trod the bi-ways

Through the ditches stray a dog ‘n a brown-eyed calf

While overhead the cocaine moon overhears your hard-luck tune

His face is too numb to weep or laugh

O Johnny, you’re blowing up against

That ol’ blizzard fence between the wars

 

Yeah Johnny, just cut the deck ‘n deal

They give you time to heal between the wars

 

Once your illusions die you’re running on willpower

And a unicorn won’t get you buy when confusion fills the hours

Neons flash ungodly verse as rays of meaning dim ‘n blur

Upon the retina of your bloodshot eye

Truth is just a baited hook that tears the mortal mind

The flesh hangs fat upon the bone, there’s little left to feed the soul

Upon a prison diet it must dine

If that spirit maiden who stands between appearance and the shape of things

Ever sheds her gown you’ll surely die

O Johnny, there’s nothing in the air

God ain’t even there between the wars

 

Yeah Johnny, for all you left behind

You search but never find between the find

 

Swear you’ve been gone so long you can’t remember why you left

And looking back it all dissolves like a vapor trail behind a jet

You can die laughing, and you can die crashing

In a flaming tailspin to earth

And you can live so long my friend that life becomes a curse

Along a desert highroad, beside a buzzard crossroad

The motorcycle cowboy missed the turn

Now his cry is silent as the boredom yields to violence

And the burden of his flesh is finally burned

O Johnny, the years begin to fly

And that’s the ways you die between the wars

 

 

 

Marijuana Fields

m.litton

 

When I was a little bitty lad, used to run down a cattle path

Through the marijuana fields back home

Down near where the ol’ creek ran dry

The wild hemp grew over twelve feet high

In those marijuana fields back home

 

When it came time to milk the cows they could most all be found

In those marijuana fields back home

Our ol’ dog, he’d sic ‘em, send ‘em home with hooves a’clickin’

From those marijuana fields back home

 

Here come the cows!  Sic ‘em, boy!

 

Then came years of boom ‘n bust, days were low, mean ‘n rough

In those marijuana fields back home

And when the roads weren’t too damn muddy,

We drove out, me ‘n my buddies

To those marijuana fields back home

 

Picked that hemp…yeah, picked it till the cows came home

 

Once or twice I’s nearly caught, several times nearly shot

In those marijuana fields back home

But I got away so guess I’m lucky

Though I never made all that much money

In those marijuana fields back home

 

When that female hemp put on her seed you could pick alotta weed

In those marijuana fields back home

It was up below Nebraska, tell ‘em that, son, if they ask ya

Those marijuana fields back home

 

Let’s pick us some!

 

The raccoon loves his sweet field corn, the milk cow loves her ol’ milk barn

And we all love them former days we roamed

And now ‘n then  when the full moon shines

I long again for my high ol’ times in those marijuana fields back home

 

Yeah, when that female hemp put on her seed…

 

 

 

Summer Days Are Long

m.litton

 

Little boy tossed a toy hand grenade in the kitchen as we sat sippin’ lemonade

The sun through the west slowly decade, the cattle lolled in the shade

Just another lazy Sunday afternoon, flies a’buzzin’ room to room

Ol’ dog wouldn’t hardly even move from the flower bed when she got the broom

Now she’s fryin’ up the catfish, Lord, I speared in the creek with the potato fork

Horses are fed ‘n all the chores are put away till tomorrow morn

 

(chorus): And it’s the same ol’ story, gotta disc that field, kill them morning glories

There’s thistles all through the pasture, flood-gate’s gone from the big spring storm

Cattle stray, guess the fences need lookin’ after once again

But then these summer days are long, don’cha know it, boy

These summer days are long, long, long

Summer days, summer days, summer days

 

Nearly had the bottom plowed, tractor choked, another breakdown

Shot yesterday runnin’ all around, parts won’t come till the bus hits town

Went swimmin’ this morning down below the falls

Where the cedars grow upon the bluff so tall

Where that young man died cuttin’ wood last fall

When a dead limb fell ‘n crushed his skull

Ya know his parents still take it mighty hard

I stopped by the other day in their yard

We spoke leaning up against the car

Time heals all wounds but leaves a scar

(chorus)

 

Last night I swore it was gonna rain

Woke with the whistle from the northbound train

Thunder ‘n lightnin’ crashed and came, cooled the air then rolled away

Hell, we could use an inch or more ‘n hell could us a revolvin’ door

My wife a new dress from a fancy store, wonder what the use is anymore

When rhe noon-day sun burns your skin ‘n the farm report predicts the end

Might move to the city ‘n start again

But there’s wheat to sow ‘n the hay ain’t in

 

And it’s the same ol’ story…

 

 

 

Holly ‘n the Drifter

m.litton

 

In the 1880s in northern Tennessee,

In a coal town Onieda lived my great-grandaddy

And one cold night a drifter shot him down

Since that day my family has roamed

I’d sink a ship for all its gold

I’d sign with the Devil for a home

 

(chorus): O Holly, I’ve been this way before

I’ve been robbed, shot at ‘n I’ve been poor

So Holly, don’cha follow out the door

Cause I can never marry you

I’m a drifter, a drifter, yeah a drifter

Holly, stand aside ‘n let me pass on through

 

I met her in a bar, boys, I was twenty-one

She had the eyes of a coyote runnin’ wild from a gun

A French-fan blew back her auburn hair

Her sad tender shadow danced upon the wall

She said she couldn’t sleep when the moon was full

Piano music filled the hall

(chorus)

 

My night’s they shadow me like the scent of smoke

Ol’ dogs hear me comin’, stir, then watch me go

My heart’s as empty as an early morning town

The memory of Holly clothes the minutes of my day

O’er the river it patterns every wave

Cruel midnight makes me wish I’d have stayed

 

O Holly, I ‘ve been this way before…

 

 

 

Golgatha

m.litton

 

Time tics above the mantle, the moth dies in the flame

The old cat climbs the screen door, whiskey divides the brain

Have you ever tried to sleep on nights when the sweat fills each pore

And the silence fills each moment with its ghostly nevermore

And you’ve mutinied the dream captain with his cat’o nine and its claws

O it’s a long way to Golgatha when you carry your own cross

 

You open your eyes to the man shadow, he has no face, no arms

He changes into a mythical moth to suck the blood from your heart

Then three great demon stallions leap from your father’s corpse

They trap you in a narrow room with no window, without a door

And you cannot find your razor, your noose won’t hold a knot

O it’s a long way to Golgatha when you carry your own cross

 

The ol’ Deceiver in the shadows, lying low as a snake

You may miss him, you may step on him

Ah but he sees you just the same

Black clouds mount the curving earth, blasting caverns in your mind

We’ve been sentenced to live in error and you wonder what was our crime

For it seems we all are governed by both hell and heaven’s law

O it’s a long way to Golgatha when you carry your own cross

 

The leprechaun lightning teases you with ghost images of Christ

Drawing energy out of matter, planting truth beneath each lie

And Einstein rides a chariot, Saint Nickolas of the stars

Seeking the Master Dealer, and it’s true he traveled far

But it all remains so relative if you can bend the light of God

O it’s a long way to Golgatha when you carry your own cross

 

Like Napoleon who burned his eagles and put a torch to each bridge

To survive we’ll burn our souls out to the very edge

And perhaps when night had passed us and the sun reigns supreme

By some small decision we’ll cut a path through this dream

And end on Easter Island with the fallen kings of Nod

O it’s a long way to Golgatha when you carry your own cross

 

 

 

Breakaway

m.litton

 

Late night closes round a little prairie town

Lone car out on the highway, moon cuts through the clouds

Two young hearts, they’re trying to break free

Take my hand, girl, come breakaway with me

 

Feeling hunted like two shadows on the run

Only wanting to escape this dead-end where we’re from

Feel your long hair blow against mine

Don’t want to die till I reach the sky

 

(chorus): Where does the road lead beyond the distant hill

We reach the horizon, we’re standing here still

Why is there no answer when the question gets real

Stab me in the heart, ask me how I feel

Caught like a tumbleweed in a barbed wire fence

Tremble without moving just touching your skin

All my life I’ve been trying to break free

Take my hand, girl, come breakaway with me

 

Red fox in the headlights trots along the road

His eyes flash yellow as he jumps the ditch to go

Deep into the night to vanish in his dream

He answers no one, he always been free

 

Let it all pass away, it’s all been said before

Take what we got today, don’t need nothing more

Take you in my arms, draw your breath o mine

Don’t want to die till I reach the sky

 

Where does the road lead…

 

 

 

Cold Ohio City

m.litton

 

With a grubstake from Ohio he went there long ago

Brought a pack mule, a pickax, and a pan to search for gold

Bullet casings, tobacco tins, coffee cans, and bones

Are the remnants left behind his log/sod mountain home

Moss-roofed and fallen now on a high granite slope

Where a lone pine stands sentinel by a dynamite-cratered hole

Gold! was a booming cry in 1900 or so

Gold was a fever

There was gold in Colorado

But the stillness reigns like starlight

And near a dying patch of snow

Lie the rusting, bleaching remnants

Of bullets, tobacco, coffee, and bones

 

The night was just rolling in

When I finally reached the west end of town

I drifted on down the far side of the street

And the people I did meet in silence passed me by

For I cruelly stared ‘em each one in the eye

 

The season was late autumn and the wind blew uncommonly hard

As I stepped up to the bar of the “Gold Creek Sporting House”

Where the chorus gals in gowns waved from the balcony

And swarmed about the fair, raven-haired queen

Of cold Ohio City, Colorado gold mining town

 

She was know as the Bluebell of Beau Simone I clearly do recall

She dazzled ‘em all with her warm and liquid eyes

Blue as the mountain sky above a late evening silhouette

A night with her a mortal man could never forget

 

She leaned upon the shoulder of a handsome gambler

Name of Beau Simone

The cigar he smoked never left his lips

He wore a pistol on his hip and silver-plated Spanish spurs

Suffice it to say he was dressed beyond words

In cold Ohio City, Colorado gold mining town

 

I knew ‘em both by other names from a situation I’ll explain in time

The months now number nine since their whereabouts was known

And a bitter seed had grown

I’d come to play the card of revenge

Against this lady, my wife, and this gentleman, my friend

 

I sat down at their table with a Winchester cradled in my arms

All the others drew apart as I called the cheatin’ pair

They straightened in their chairs

But when he went for that ace up his sleeve

Lord, he never knew what hit ‘im when my hammer hit the breach

In cold Ohio City, Colorado gold mining town

 

Through Denver the word was spread

Next morning as they read the telegram

A drifter killed a gambler and his belle

But the drifter died as well

For when he knelt at the dying lady’s side

She shot him with a derringer holstered on her thigh

 

The mining shacks all are gone

As the breezes blow beyond the Great Divide

And where the stream runs behind the old Hickory Mill

Up yonder on a hill beneath a lone white Aspen tree

There lay the bones of Bluebell, Beau Simone, and me

In cold Ohio City, Colorado gold mining town

 

 

 

O Big Magic Moon

m.litton

 

His daddy made whiskey and his momma made pretend that she was a riverboat queen

The passion that held them was the hope one day to trade the chessboard for a king

You can run ‘n hide, cry ‘n cry, then try to fly like a crow

Ya still won’t make it anyway but so

And O-O-O big magic moon, come listen to my blues

 

One cold night the wind was howling, the horse was neighing in his stall

She dealt some cards down on the old chessboard told her son that he would grow tall

Cause you’re the lion in the riddle, the bow on the fiddle

The light in the middle of the stone

One day your heart is bound to fill with gold

And O-O-O big magic moon, come listen to my blues

 

It was raining outside, the sky was black came some men with a lantern to the door

His daddy was drunk as he rose to his feet, dead when they shot him to the floor

And with open eyes the old dreamer dies waiting for the light from above

To come make true, so true his love

And O-O-O big magic moon, come listen to my blues

 

By the light of the magic moon all silhouettes are revealed

The mother and the child ride this night away out in the hills

And as the wind plays through the trees, casting shadows o’er their trail

They chance to meet the ghost of one they once knew so well

 

Twenty odd years down the road from that time the son rode with Robert E. Lee

He fought like a badger for them Southern hills, caught a shell in ‘63

You can run ‘n hide, cry ‘n cry, then try to fly like a crow

Ya still won’t make it anyway but so

And O-O-O big magic moon, come listen to my blues

 

They laid him to the room with his uniform penned with medals of golds

His old momma cried as her warrior lay there one last night at home

He was the lion in the riddle, the bow on the fiddle

The light in the middle of the stone

One day his heart was bound to fill with gold

And O-O-O big magic moon, come listen to my blues

 

With the memory of her man there dead on the floor, her son just fresh to his grave

She takes the pistol off the old chessboard, tries so hard to be brave

And with open eyes the old dreamer dies waiting for the light from above

To come make true, so true her love

And O-O-O big magic moon, come listen to my blues

 

 

 

Yellow Rose Hotel

m.litton

 

I love Texas when it’s hot, Lord, and dusty

And that gusty ol’ wind comes blowin’ out of hell

I follow my memory on a high lonesome journey

To a long ago evening at the Yellow Rose Hotel

She wore a dress colored yellow

In the pale moonlight she glowed

As the wind played a reel through the pastures and hills

I held her close…down at the ol’ Yellow Rose

 

(chorus): Where she lay in the shadows awaiting

Like a dream that fades at dawn

Then we made love as the neon flower glowed

And that neon flower was the bright yellow rose

And it’s bloomed in my dreams ever since that night

 

I love Texas but a young man must wander

Though his love he may plunder on a dream he cannot find

I left her in Amarillo, took a harvest flotilla

North through the Dakotas across the Canadian line

Ah but love left alone will only wither

Like the clover will die in the cold

When my letters returned unopened I yearned for her so

Down at the ol’ Yellow Rose

(chorus)

 

I love Texas when the blizzards drift the ditches

And the thistles and fences glisten in the sun

I’ve seen tomorrow laying like a woman’s sorrow

She’s waiting in the shadows, fading as I come

I gambled and lost her down a highway

Passed my last chance so long ago

I was fuel for the fire

Now I’m the ash where that one ember glows

Down at the ol’ Yellow Rose

 

Where she lay in the shadows awaiting…

 

 

 

Caspion & the White Buffalo

m.litton

 

In the year of 18 ‘n 71, Jim Caspion and Sam Tillman did go

Away out on the western Kansas plains to hunt for the wild buffalo

On October 12th in late afternoon, from a view along a ridge

It was Caspion who spied the Great Southern Herd

And a white bull that grazed at the edge

 

As the sun fell west and shadows grew

Fifty Cheyenne warriors rode out of the blue

 

The warriors quickly rode Tillman to the ground

He fought but he never had a chance

When the Cheyenne turned to come for Caspion, boys

A scalp was help up high on their lance

 

Hai-ya, hai-ya, hai-ya, hai-ya-oh…

 

First he reined his horse right then he reined him left

And looking back he set both spurs

Then Caspion gave his horse its head

And rode straight into that mighty herd

Now that great brown sea of buffalo roared

As the stampede pressed him in

Before the dust closed around he saw the Cheyenne ride

Upon the crest of the hill where he had been

 

Like a storm they ran with tongues aflame

As the broad black beast burned all across the plain

 

Hai-ya, hai-ya, hai-ya, hai-ya-oh…

 

There was thunder in the ground as the night came down

As the buffalo drove and rushed

And a prayer on the lips of Caspion, boys

As he rode on blind through the dust

 

Hai-ya, hai-ya, hai-ya, hai-ya-oh…

 

Well the sky blew clear and the full moon shone

And on and on ran the stream

It was then that he spied the white buffalo again

Just before it fell into a deep ravine

There was several hundred head crowded o’er that edge

Before the valley opened wide

Where Caspion reined his horse away

And found some rocks for to bed down behind

 

In an army blanket made of wool

He lay dreaming of that pure white buffalo

Lay dreaming, dreaming of the white buffalo

 

In the morning light he rode back to the gulch

Where the buffalo had fallen in

There he found the white bull with a broken leg

So he shot him then he took his skin

 

Hai-ya, hai-ya, hai-ya, hai-ya-oh…

 

He made a robe, a robe of the white buffalo

Made a robe, a robe of the white buffalo

 

Through five long years Caspion kept that robe

Believing it was good medicine

For he felt that the power of the white buffalo

Had led him safe from the wild Cheyenne

But on a drinking spree out in Fort Lyons, boys

He sold that robe for a hundred dollar bill

And the following spring down in New Mexico

While hunting buffalo Caspion was killed

 

As the sun fell west and shadows grew

The Comanche warriors rode out of the blue

 

Hai-ya, hai-ya, hai-ya, hai-ya-oh…

 

 

 

Elmira

m.litton

 

I hold my heart in tune to the moonlit night, the song’s delay

In my hands I seek to grasp the soft-colored sky, the ocean’s spray

Yet here I lie in the rolling sand, I’ve folded my legs, folded my hands

I kneel and bow and pray that I might stand

And take and hold and love the spirit Elmira

 

Elmira is the one I love with all my heart, with all my soul

The dew-silent bird that sings a song I will never know

 

Elmira walks the blue hills at dawn in a shadow dress, a purple veil

Her image is here then gone, her dancing form soon dispels

O if I could rise above all I’m made, evolve into something like the shade

I’d laugh at all the fools who’ve cried and begged

And take and hold and love the spirit Elmira

 

Now her vision is gone as a dream will fade into the day

And what was sand and foam, an inland sea, is now sand and clay

O if by song her soul would rise, and if by singing she’d never die

I’d stand and sing and reach beyond the sky

And take and hold and love the spirit Elmira

 

Elmira is the one I love with all my heart, with all my soul

The dew-silent bird that sings a song I will never know

 

 

 

Creek-Bank Ghetto Boys

m.litton

 

From the sandy fords of shallow streams to the muddy Marais de Cygnes

We rode the Flint Hills thru the night out to them rolling plains

And we are the Creek-Bank Ghetto Boys, we all are mighty liars

And the sheriff never knows we’re near, hell, we don’t light no fires

Oh sing of the wounded land just below the border

Beneath shade of a native Oak there grows our greenback dollar

 

Get Grandpa’s old corn-knife unsheathed ‘n put her to the stone

We never take our guns out there ‘cause that’s against out code

And we haven’t come to rob the rich nor aid the helpless pauper

Though we don’t aim to slave all day just to earn a piece of copper

Our brothers of the night they howl like a lonesome distant train

The clouds flap their wings below the moon which shows the way

 

(chorus): And some would call us outlaws, but that’s a meaner game

For we’re the Creek-Bank Ghetto Boys a’ridin’ down the plains

Yeah, we’re the Creek-Bank Ghetto Boys, we’ll be gone come the break of day

 

We work within the timeless night where the dawn and evening wed

Where the wall between the dream is gone and we dance there with the dead

And we idolize each other’s sword and graft our souls to legend

And fancy as we flay the hemp, this is the foes green legions

But when the fever leaves the brow and we gather in a nest

With sober words we speak of one who watches o’er the harvest

 

The dawn is approaching, boys, can’t you see the pumpkin sky

As we stumble thru the trees below, can’t you hear the Blue Jay cry

In a ditch beside the road we wait with our gainful gunny sack

As the headlights halo behind the hill from the car of One-eyed Jack

Oh cut the lights and hit the door, fill ‘er to the jaws, roll

Let’s put a hundred miles between us and the local law

(chorus)

 

Now later when the split is made, angry words have flowed

For the greedy heart spins heads ‘n tails before that hard-earned gold

One night when the red blood had boiled, Oats up and spoke like this:

“Just what was paid the lad who held the horse for Frank ‘n Jess?”

Well you can wave your gun about and at the shadows aim

But best you take the hand you’re dealt when it ain’t but you to blame

(chorus)

 

 

 

Bagpipe Blues

m.litton

 

Drinking wine on the ol’ Montmartre there sat Camus ‘n Jean-Paul Sartre

Talking about life for an illogical while

The former said it was a tragedy, the latter swore it was a history

They both agreed existentially with the boys in the rank ‘n file

But those bagpipe blues, I hear those bagpipe blues

Rock me in my cradle, Lord, sink this ship of fools

I’d trade this modern world in for an old-fashion girl

And philosophy for to know ‘n this politics for a puppet show

 

Cause I only wanna be bouncing on my daddy’s knee

Taking a pony ride…hell, I’d trade this song for a lullaby

 

When I’s young I used to think that I would make the cynic blink

I studied on the math ‘n science and ancient Sufi prayer

Now my friends, I simply roll my eyes at exotic gals who pantomime

That age-old striptease of…touch me if you dare

And those bagpipe blues, I hear those bagpipe blues

Rock me in my cradle, Lord, sink this ship of fools

Son, ya gotta take it on the chin, it’s the most unoriginal sin

Woman is simply sugar-fed  by little men who’re made of gingerbread

 

And I only wanna be bouncing on my daddy’s knee

Taking a pony ride…hell, I’d trade this song for a lullaby

 

Well we’ve lived through many years ‘n Camus’s no longer here

And we bid farewell to ol’ Jean-Paul quite a long while ago

He said there ain’t no exit, boys, but he had a ticket, boys

Still he waved the train on by cause he longer cared to go

And those bagpipe blues, he heard those bagpipe blues

Rock him in his cradle, Lore, sink this ship of fools

If being is nothing then nothing must mean something

I reckon the ol’ boy was confused

Ya know a thinking man can rarely choose

 

So I scratch my prayer on the pavement stone

And agree with fools down at the loading zone

And sing my Rorschach rhymes for all the world to hear

But tragedy goes against my gain ‘n history’s just a daisy chain

And existence is a casualty to memory and fear

And those bagpipe blues, I hear those bagpipe blues

Rock me in my cradle, Lord, sink this ship of fools

With rhyme ‘n reason hand in hand, I’ll mount the stage a one-man band

A rock-a-bye high up in the wind

To a far-off applause my songs will end

 

And I only wanna be bouncing on my daddy’s knee

Taking a pony ride…hell, I’d trade this song for a lullaby

 

 

 

The Devil’s Daughter

m.litton

 

One July evening I was feeling down

I went to the circus that had come to town

Watched all the grand festivities

Though I stayed alone like a guilty thief

I stood by the Gypsy wagon all through the horse parade

Watched the colors flow through light ‘n shade

But when the big-top music had finally died

I noticed this lovely lady dancing at my side

 

She came to me when the circus closed

In a white silk dress and black silk hose

She had a moonlight rogue and lilac breath

She swayed like a willow underneath her dress

She said, What’s this you’ve got hidden in your eyes

Is it something that I might finalize

I said, Yeah, well maybe…I’m  just a country fool

She said, I can read your mind, boy, let’s stop playing by the rules

 

Now the Devil’s daughter, some say she’s cruel

But she come to me like a gentle girl

She said, I’m out on loan, your gal’s out of reach

If you come with me, my boy, I can make it easy

You know the favorite child of God prayed ‘neath the moon

So why should we not play beneath it too

And press our bodies like his folded hands

You know even the Devil’s daughter sometimes she needs a man

 

We waltzed through the moonlight, the garden and the feast

We fell ‘neath the lamppost of a late-night street

She pointed to the neon glow, she laughed and said

Is this forbidden fruit or you’re Golden Calf

I said, it’s both then neither nor exactly the same

Just a place where night can’t enter, a torch without a flame

Well she said, If that’s morality, best save it for your ladies

It’s enough you’re gonna die alone but to sleep that way is just crazy

 

She took me to her wagon, she washed my feet

I felt like a god of ancient Greece

When the light of the morning began to burn

She looked to me and said, You must return

For I knew that you would want to go back home

So I made it easy for you to find the road

Just ride up to the sign that reads Life or Death

Then take the path that leads to the ones you love the best

 

O the Devil’s daughter, some say she’s cruel

But she come to me like a gentle girl…

 

 

 

Help Me Crossover

m.litton

 

Help me crossover, don’t let me go down

Don’t let me roll under ‘neath the terrible thunder

Please don’t let me drown

A ship in the bottle is lost to the sea

And I’ve let the bottle form its wall around me

It’s dark as a dungeon, cold as a tomb

Just help me crossover, don’t say it’s over

Girl, I still need you

 

And all of my reasons were whiskey-soaked lies

But babe don’t you leave, please won’t you stay

And help me climb

Over the wall of this hangover hell

Help me crossover, help me crossover

Help me crossover, don’t let me fail

 

Your love is gentle, to love me is hard

You’re caught in the middle between me ‘n the bars

I’ll make you no promise, that’s the backslider’s line

Just help me crossover and I’ll stay sober

One day at a time

 

And all of my reasons were whiskey-soaked lies

But babe don’t you leave, please won’t you stay

And help me climb

Over the wall of this hangover hell

Help me crossover, help me crossover

Help me crossover, don’t let me fail

 

 

 

Murder of Bob Rose

m.litton

 

While driving down a pavement road, it was a cold day in November

It started snowing, she told the story about the murder of Bobby Rose

Now in the Thirtiues the men would gamble, drink ‘n ramble around the county

To make the game many came with money from selling off their cattle

At an old house they’s playing poker , in walks a joker, he’s got a big gun

It’s a game of chance, ya lost your pants, I want every man here to hand ‘em over

He marched them down into the cellar and said, Now fellas, lay on the floor

He crossed the yard then drove a car against the door and he didn’t leave a dollar

 

Around the cafes and the depot some said, Bob Rose must be the gunman

He always came, that night he missed the game ‘n he’s the one could do it all alone

Bobby Rose ran the creamery, stood six feet, young ‘n handsome

He was well-liked, had a pretty wife, took her dancing down east in Kansas City

And Alice Rose was mighty pretty, and her daddy was the town marshal

Ol’ Bob was lucky, some say too lucky with the cards as well as with the ladies

 

Two months later around  a dim light, the dealer cries, You’ve won again

That’s three outa five you’ve won tonight or dammit will you tell that I’m blind

The other man he just grinned and said, Now men ain’t it a shame

Ya take a chance, ya lose your pants, like taken eggs from a one-legged hen

The dealer growls, Now let’s remember…last September you were him

You just guessing, I ain’t confessing…but all their lips were set hard ‘n thin

They help him up against the wall so he wouldn’t fall as they beat him

They cracked his head, at the ears he bled, he went limp when someone broke his jaw

 

Come on get up, start acting sober, do as you’re told, come to your feet

Perhaps he dead, the little man said, He doesn’t breathe and I swear he getting colder

The room falls silent as a cave, behind the shade a lantern burns

Through the shadows moves a new ghost, they hear it mumbling all their names

We’ve done a murder, the dealer moans, you see the bone behind his ear

It’s a sad mistake, it ain’t too late, so listen here we’ve still got till early morn

The dealer says, I’ll take the body of poor Bobby, you boys drive his car

We’ll let the train come smash his brain ‘n by nthe stars we’ll swear we saw him drinking

 

They park the car right on the tracks, then looking back cry, Where’s our friend

The Rock Island Line come flying, they rush away just before they hear the crack

On down the road they find the dealer, his wheels are spinning above  culvert

The roads are slick, I jumped the ditch, the car ain’t hurt but you all know how I’m feeling

They dump the body down a cistern then push the car back on the road

When they find that well, they’ll say he fell after roaming from the wreck upon the curve

 

Three day pass, it starts to snow, it’s on the radio and people wonder

It’s now Thanksgiving, still he’s missing then a hunter finds the body down that hole

The county gathers at the inquest, the death is ruled accidental

Without proof they can’t accuse, says the marshal, Now ya know I done my best

At Bobby’s grave stands his brother with his mother and his uncle

Pretty Alice cries as the service dies ‘n says, A shovel can’t cover up a murder

And there is talk accusing Alice, the women all jealous of her red hair

It breaks her heart, tears her apart, she pays the fare and takes a train to Dallas

But Bobby’s older brother name of Durard claims he’s heard by who the deed was done

There’s a debt, they’ll pay it yet, some are going to hell and that’s my word

 

 

Willy Stanton told his friends, I know it’s him there on my phone

When I answer I hear his laughter, he’s in my bones, I can feel him on my skin

They find Willy dead on New Year’s with the fear locked in his eyes

The way he died was suicide, he fired the pistol just above his ear

And ol’ Durard don’t say nothing, keeps staring with those gray eyes

He’s a bear-like man, got giant hands, never smiles when he sees ya coming

 

Carlin Hill farmed a quarter, he had a dollar in every game

One year later he got a letter, there was no name and it mentioned a murder

They found Carlin behind his house, there ain’t no doubt said the sheriff

He pressed the gun to his heart ‘n lung, he had big debts coming from the drought

And ol’ Durard don’t say nothing, keeps staring with those gray eyes

He’s a bear-like man, got giant hands, never smiles when he sees ya coming

 

One night they find poor Eddy Rollin, his motor running up in Nebraska

Eddy dies but his date survives, the whiskey his ma claimed was poisoned

And Henry Garth, ten years later, went to the river for the weekend

He’s never found, they thought he’d drowned

But he could swing in any current said a neighbor

And ol’ Durard don’t say nothing, keeps staring with those gray eyes

He’s a bear-like man, got giant hands, never smiles when he sees ya coming

 

It was down a score of winters from the murder of Bobby Rose

When Pony Hays went insane ‘n told the law that he had been the dealer

By the window he grips the bars, sees his arms grow thin ‘n old

The men in white have saved his life but his soul has fled out to the stars

And ol’ Durard don’t say nothing, keeps staring with those gray eyes

He’s a bear-like man, got giant hands, never smiles when he sees ya coming

 

 

 

Sunday Morning

m.litton

 

Sunday Morning I have found crying like a baby

Tear-blue eyes and rolling dice, a ribbon from my lady’s gown

 

Through the garden willows weave a basket for her hours

She dances softly as a child over memories of flower and leaves

 

Sunday Morning has no shame, her passion is bold

To Sunday Morning a wild bird sang of love once long ago

 

The Queen of Hearts, the Joker Wild, fruits are o’er the vine

A kiss of nectar to the sky, her flesh so divine is defiled

 

The world evolves through the light of an ancient fire

Sunday Morning unveiled her breasts in her maiden lair last night

 

 

 

Colorado Gambler

m.litton

 

Show me to your mansion in the sky and I’ll stay with you one night

On the silver lining of the storm we’ll dance the evening through till morn

In the depot she sat waiting as he swung down from his saddle

He took the hand of this lovely lady, helped her to step across the rail

 

(chorus): Then the train whistle blows and the proud lady falls

Into the arms of the Colorado Gambler who plays her like a card

And burns his memory in her heart

 

She smiles as their carriage rocks ‘n rolls, she says

It’s so good to leave the cold, though it seem s to take forever

To cross this Kansas prairie, I long for my green Missouri hills

He was bound from Denver for Cincinnati, he asked her

Might I dine tonight with you, we’ll take an evening

In Kansas City, cut this weary trip in two

(chorus)

 

They’ve taken Venus from the sky, they’ve placed her sparkle in your eye

The porcelain is not half so fair, the sun through colored glass ain’t so warm

Her velvet dress falls from her shoulder, she leans against the bed to wait for him

She reaches out, they’re standing close, his hands are so cold upon her skin

 

(chorus): But his breath warms all as the proud lady falls…

 

The dawn is silver on the lace of the curtain which falls across her face

She wakes to close the window then turns back a tear

For the night is now a shadow in the mirror

He left her a letter signed, My lady…I’ve sailed south for Baton Rouge

I laid down my hand for your heart was winning

And I’ve learned to fold before I lose

 

(chorus): The steamboat whistle blows as the proud lady falls

Into the arms of the Colorado Gambler who plays her like a card

And burns his memory in her heart

 

 

 

Fractions of Life

m.litton

 

So many babies born today, so many stars left the sky

Life goes on like a lazy river drifting through the night

Old, old passions going down, kneeling on one knee

There’s a prophet in your heart, a Buddha in your spine

They are praying

 

Some old dog is moaning low, some poor man can’t sleep

Like the moon we all walk alone, struggling across dark seas

Hear that broken window, babe,  hear that turning key

There’s a thief in your belly, a wolf in your eye

They are listening

 

Hear the siren of the dragon, girl, making fires through the cold

Hear that mummy whisper so softly once museum doors have closed

There’s cold bread in the oven, warm blood down a six-foot hole

There’s a beggar in your pocket, a poet in your lungs

They are screaming

 

Beneath the dark moist willow limb a seed has gone to soil

Autumn leaves are falling yellow, hissing as the serpent coils

Frozen o’er the tundra like thoughts frozen in your mind

There’s a dream of life in the corpse of Christ

Believing

 

O fill this empty bottle, babe, please fill this empty man

Someday I’m gonna leave this ol’ house, babe

This old castle made of sand

Hear that falling coin as it rolls across the floor

The world goes around like a weary ol’ dime

Just spinning

 

So many babies born today…

 

 

 

Montana Bound

m.litton

 

In April of ’82, along the Rio Grande

I signed on with Don Lovell ‘n the Circle-dot brand

We swam the cattle cross from Matamoros town

The wrangler drove the remuda

Soon we were all Montana bound

 

Our foreman’s name was Flood, ol’ Fox his segundo

They said the secret to trailing doggies, boys

Is you never let ‘em know, keep ‘em headed

On up the trail, but never show your hand

Spare your mounts, keeps their blankets dry

Cause a man afoot is just one less man

 

(chorus): Hi-yip hi-yip, Montana bound

Giddy-up head ‘em on their way

Hi-yip hi-yip, Montana bound

Come a cow-ki-yippie-yi-aye!

 

Across the Nueces up where it doubles round

Fresh from the Atascosa, we made the night’s bed-ground

But the unexpected waits up the Old Western Trail

The cattle jumped from their sleep

Like 3000 demons straight from hell

 

We whipped our slickers high ‘n fought to make ‘em turn

Fired our 44s so close the powder burned

When we hit the mesquite in that night stampede

I held the pummel and I held the cantle

(chorus)

 

A dry ol’ desert drive beyond the San Antone

The herd like a dragon curved to the Colorado

We had the trail boss, chuck, the point

The swing, flank ‘n drag

When the rustlers came to cut the herd

We helped the Rangers get ‘em bagged

 

We braved the raging Brazos

But the Red had shallowed down

On her banks we counted many graves

Of drovers she had drowned

In crossing the Indian land s we battered ‘em some beef

The Comanche trailed to the Cimarron

At the Kansas line we were home free

(chorus)

 

After months of drought ‘n flood ‘n muddy loblollies

Of prowling wolves and  big buff bulls ‘n glorious stampedes

We vied for the ladies’ pleasures and played  the gamblers’ odds

The closest we came to the bitter end

Was the night we shot the lights out in Dodge…

 

On north to Ogallala in a game of Spanish monte

Lady luck was velvet on the Rebel’s jack ‘n queen

But a fortnight on up the trail at 40-Island Forde

A good man drowned ‘n we buried him

And prayed his soul would find the Lord…

 

Below the Big-Horn Range we rode the Powder to the Yellowstone

At a bar in Frenchman’s Forde where only fools go alone

A boasting Yank toasted General Grant

And got his face slapped with whiskey

Guns were drawn, the Yankee died

As the Rebel cried, Here’s to General Lee…

 

Squaw Winter in Montana on the Mother Missouri

We delivered our long-horn herd to the Blackfoot Agency

Now the Chinooks blow around the fire

As our stories are told

Hell I wouldn’t trade my trail days, boys

To be bigshot with bags of gold

 

Hi-yip hi-yip, Montana bound

Giddy-up head ‘em on their way

Hi-yip hi-yip, Montana bound

Come a cow-ki-yippie-yi-aye!

 

 

 

Christmas Song

m.litton

 

The snow lay deep o’er the many hills

The stars shone bright in the sky

The winter wind which bends the trees

Was calm that Christmas night

 

Daddy played his mouth-harp low

While momma made some bells ‘n bows

To decorate the cedar tree

We’d cut that day out in the cold

 

Then daddy sang a Christmas song

Away in the manger he lay

Then daddy sang a Christmas song

On this silent night, this holy night

When joy returns to the world for a day

 

The flame in the lamp was turned to glow

Till like a halo it seemed

And he told us of the savior’s birth

That first cold, cold Christmas Eve

 

See the stars through window

Framed by the frost on the pane

There was once a great star

That guided the wise men who came

They entered the manger and saw

A babe wrapped in rags, lain on the straw

And daddy sang a Christmas song

Away in the manger he lay

And daddy sang a Christmas song

On this silent night, this holy night

When joy returns to the world for a day

 

 

 

Indian Land

m.litton

 

From the far horizon a great thunderhead has sent

Red clouds before the warriors descend

There’s thunder in the valley, there’s lightning in the sky

But they don’t bring no tears to the little boy’s eyes

Cause he ain’s scared of thunder, Lord, no he ain’t scared of storm

He ain’t scared of the Devil with his pitchfork and his horns

Cause late in the evening he’s heard the stories told

About the Plains Indians so brave and bold

 

(chorus): And it’s Hey-ya, hey-ya, hey-ee-ya-a-aye

You can hear them sing when the wind begins to play

And if you don’t wear s shirt or a glove on your hand

Son, you’ll turn red in this Indian land

 

When the ol’ potato wagon goes a’rolling o’er the bridge

That’s what makes the thunder sound up overhead

And when the ol’ man makes his great big wagon whip go crack

It sends the lightning crashing on the Devil’s back

He’ll teach me how to fiddle, Lord, he’ll teach me how to ride

Dad’ll take me huntin-fishin with him by and by

And when he tells me something, I always listen good

So I can go way down yonder in the woods

(chorus)

 

The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cold

Jack Frost is coming and he’ll bite your nose

The brush of Indian Summer has painted all the leaves

Gotta get a jack-o-lantern cut for Halloween

Now all the leaves are falling, the firewood is stacked

The birds fly south but they’ll soon fly back

Daddy makes a teepee when he stacks the stokes of cain

And we hide there in the middles from the cold wind ‘n rain

 

Hey-ya, hey-ya, hey-ee-ya-a-aye

 

Gotta get the pick ‘n shovel, gotta dig a hole real deep

Cause the ol’ dog died last night in his sleep

Daddy says the grave will one day set our spirits free

And we’ll roam in the clouds between the sun and the sea

We’ll ride the high wind over distant hills

Leave these valleys where we’ve toiled ‘n tilled

And there will be no hunger, no worry anymore

As we sail the great storms shore to shore

 

(chorus): And it’s Hey-ya, hey-ya, hey-ee-ya-a-aye

You can hear them sing when the wind begins to play

And if you don’t wear s shirt or a glove on your hand

Son, you’ll turn red in this Indian land

 

 

 

War Wind

m.litton

 

Late one night in early July with the wheat harvest done

My grandpa and I watched the far fields burn

As he spoke of World War One…

The best of those days was the baseball I played

While we trained under General Wood

And the time my mules stopped the victory parade

On the grounds where ol’ Pershing stood

Then after the war that night in Coblenz

When me ‘n the Swede we got drunk

Too drunk to climb back up in the loft

We bedded down in a cattle bunk

 

(chorus): And I heard the war wind moan

Through the salient at Saint Mihiel

It blew through the Battle of Belleau Wood

And when the Argonne Forest fell

 

I served as a medic in the old 89th

We were known as “The Middle West”

Farm boys shipped off to France

We thought the war would be a grand jest

My only wound was a wine-bottle scar

I caught there in a French saloon

Got a week in the brig for a brawl with the Brits

Met the German lads all too soon

(chorus)

 

Down Roman roads the caissons they rolled

Till the mud covered hub ‘n wheel

The air was filled with suffering cries

Of horse ‘n men being killed

That first dawn at our jumping-off lines

When the shells had shattered the mist

Our heart leapt then sank as we ran

Into battle like you’d fall from a cliff

(chorus)

(bridge):The village bells they were ringing

As all fell quiet along the front

And through those silent nights

While we watched o’er the Rhine

We still heard their cries

And in our dreams back home

The war wind still moaned

 

Tell me, I asked, what was it like

To see the wounded men die

His silence made me ashamed

I saw the agony fill his eyes

Son, you’re young but it’s time that you know

There are questions you never should ask

We cared for the wounded, buried the dead

Marked a cross on all who were gassed

(chorus & bridge)

 

 

 

Late in the Winter

m.litton

 

Late in the winter the sun sets through the south

And as I labor through the cold

I watch the trees touch lavender clouds

And long for the chorus of slumber

 

The voice of the river pines to the sea

As the night o’er the lowland descends

I’m wanting no more than never to have been

To know not of age nor sorrow

 

The lattice of the years they form the glades

Where the wolves will hunger and moan

There beneath the grass my bones will be laid

And my children will harvest the suffering

 

Now the night and the winter and the century are one

In the life of the river and its journey

I carry my weariness back to my home

And wait to be buried by history

 

Late in the winter the sun sets through the south

And as I labor through the cold

I watch the trees touch lavender clouds

And long for the chorus of slumber

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