On the Road Again
Graffiti on the wall is no defacement,
Proclaiming as it does that Art is Truth,
And Johnny's coming back up from the basement,
Arms heavy with the vinyl of his youth.
Ophelia's still peering through the casement,
Her mind is on the wonder from Duluth.
Above them, springtime clouds pile up then float away
As, tickets in their jeans, they hit the motorway.
Others are moving with them - a benign
Conspiracy of journeys all converging
Like Dante's angels drawn to the Divine.
Some pour from cars, but many more come surging
Out of the station concourse in a line
Down to the riverside, intent on merging
Their private narratives into the tense
Expectant body of an audience.
Reality grows thin in Liverpool:
Bitter and sweet here like an Eleatic
Paradox contradict themselves and fuel
Invention, wit, and art's precise, emphatic
Yes! The arena echoes. In the cool
Evening the mood turns suitably dramatic:
The Mersey sparkles like the gems in Tiffany's,
And - now on stage - the master of epiphanies.
Behold the Jokerman of many
Outlaw and Wicked Messenger,
Blood on the tracks is found we
know his traces,
Dancer beneath the diamond sky,
Young, stuck in Mobile, Juarez,
Lost in the rain where lovers
meet and sever,
A Judas Priest to bless Love
Nobody, all men, shaman, poet,
And afterwards? More journeys - to their scattered
Abodes the travellers go. The music dies
Within as sleep comes on, night's windscreen spattered
With short-lived dreams. Tonight, as Johnny lies
Next to Ophelia in the dark, what mattered
To them was rediscovering these highs
Can be achieved, defying gravitation,
For love is song, and song transfiguration.
K. M. Payne
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