Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Levon Helm's "Electric Dirt"
ALTERNATE TAKE: LEVON HELM
I’ve been beating my head all day long on the same six lines,
Snapped off and whittled to nothing like the nub of a pencil
Chewed up and smoothed over, yellow paint flecking my teeth.
And this whole time a hot wind’s been swatting down my door,
Spat from his mouth and landing smack against my ear.
All day pounding the devil out of six lines and coming up dry
While he drives donuts through my mind’s back woods with that
Dirt-road voice of his, kicking up gravel like a runaway Buick.
He asks Should I come in with that back beat, and whatever those
Six lines were bothered by skitters off like water in hot grease.
Come in with your lips stretched tight and that pig-eyed grin,
Bass mallet socking it to the drum. Lay it down like you know
You know how, shoulders hiked nice and high, chin tipped back,
So the song has to climb its way out like a man from a mine.
by Tracy K. Smith
New Yorker, September 21