The Woody Johnson Free Press

VOL. 1 -- NO. 2CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADASaturday, November 16, 2019

Poetry Corner



The Things I've Done

(Woody Johnson)

"These things I've done," said I to him,

In his office that day, by way of confession:

"I have emptied the cup that overflows,

"From the garden I clipped the finest rose...

"Interrupted the poet with my praise,

"Smothered butterflies -

"Then pinned them in collectors' trays...

"Made the silent initiate shout in frustration,

"Brought a child to tears with my intonation..."

"I have drunk the last of the rationed water;

"Struck the last match to light my cigar, sir;

"Thrown the baby out with the bath;

"And never bothered to check my math...

"I did not look - I just leapt,

"And just like Sagittarius -

"I aimed right while looking left,

"Resulting in disatrous."

"I've accepted the fact that einmal ist keinmal,

"And disregarded the family motto:

"Did the things that one ought not to,

"Again, once more, y a infinito...

"Yes, I've done these things," said I.

And he replied:

"Well - you should be an addict - why!

"At the very least, in jail - or dead, sir!

"None should have borne such ills you've bred!"

Yes - that is what the doctor said.

Lament For Kim S.

(G. Lahey, October, 2019)

So full of joy

Of living and song

And yet never said

Anything was wrong

Played guitar and sang

Jumped and danced around

All night long

She laughed long and loud

Loud and long

Spoke her mind in poem/rhymes

Stood tall and strong

Dignified and graceful

In the face of borrowed time


In the little she had left

She said what she had to say

'Bout love and happiness

Keeping the shadow at bay

And the day finally came

When she pulled up lame

With her hands on her hips

Her smile restrained

She put down her guitar

And without any help

Hobbled to her room

Never once complained

Or cursed the fact that soon....

And so she soldiered on

Denying its claim on her

And smiling even though

It crippled and it maimed

And I am not ashamed

To admit that I cried

The day that I found out

She made the hard things easier to bear

And, Lord, I wish

She was still here...


(G. Lahey, October, 2018)

I go to church on Sunday

Yes I do.

Sometimes I'm asked, "Why? For who?

All I can say is "I am grateful, don't you know..."

I am renewed after I've considered

those things for which I was not mindful.

For example: a kindness shown
Which, upon reflection of the weekly

of a sudden becomes known to me.

The thoughtful things that people do

out of love, or goodness, or out of concern,

Discerning needs of which I, myself, was unaware,
are realized in contemplation here.

A simple gesture that indicates a measure of interest in my day

meant someone cared enough to ask:

I say a prayer of thanks for that.

All within this sanctuary where
there is time enough to


Search my pate and ruminate

on seemingly trivial moments

overlooked in my conscious state.

But here - in meditation's light - they become gargantuate,

Revealing themselves as such

in the sacred silence of this space
where I am reminded to be grateful.


(G. Lahey, September, 2017)

If you find

there are no words

or symbols or signs

to express or define

this feeling of loss and the void that it left;

And this chasm

this abyss you fell into

with no Earth below to finally embrace you,

so that life becomes an endless descent...

Into silence

and stillness

that you try your best to ignore

so that you can go on with your life once more...

Let me tell you:

There's still joy and beauty

and love and life

and kindness and goodness in this world as before

and just because you opened a door

and found yourself on the outside

looking in

let me tell you, my friend,

it's not the end.

It's not the end.

It's not the end.

Goin' Down Swingin'

(G. Lahey, September, 2017)

I can hear

The crowd a-hollerin'

But I ain't ready to go;

I hear Ratchett caterwaulin'

But me and Randall still got one more;

I can hear

The people shoutin'

Tellin' me to stay down;

But me and ol' Lucas Jackson

Are gettin' up to go another round.


Yeah there's evil

in this world

We're not gonna let it win;

We're goin' down swingin'...

I can hear

The siren's a-wailin'

But we're not givin' up, sir;

It's me and Terry Malloy

We're blind but we keep flailin'...

Yeah, there's evil

In this world

But we're not gonna let it win

We're goin' down swingin'.


(Woody Johnson,September, 2015)

Well, my best big boy...

Another birthday's here,

Hope you celebrate it with friends and celebrate it heartily.

I wish you all kindnesses and Grace,

In this, your 27th year...

Remember: use wisdom,

Not just your knowledge,

To temper what you know with what you believe;

And use your intuition, too,

Against those who would decieve.

Lastly, remember

That there is much Love

On this Big Round World: Music, Song -

So many reasons

To celebrate and give thanks

All year long,

My best big boy...


(Woody Johnson, July, 2016)

I am not looking for a lover,

I am not looking for a friend,

I only want to recover

From this falling that does not end.

I'm not looking for a doctor,

I do not need a police man,

Thirsty, but I don't need water

On a ship, adrift - I don't need land.

Priests and magis are no use,

Shelter from the elements? No.

Betrayed by lies, not seeking truth anymore,

Just falling towards some place below.

I'm not looking for a hero,

I do not need a holy see,

I'm not looking for a miracle,

Just looking for someone to save me.

For My Son and Daughter

(Woody Johnson, August, 2015)

I'm an old and bent-backed man now,

And I love 'em more

Than when they both were infants;

In that New Mornin' room back then,

That sacred light shinin' down on them,

In the loving arms of their perfect mother:

My darling son and darling daughter.

Everything that they believe

About whales and trees,

And seeds and light and water,

And caring for and loving living things,

They learned from her and me;

And, conversely,

Everything we didn't know back then,

About forgiveness and love,

About letting go -

What we truly need to grow -

Indeed, was taught to us by them

Before they learned to read and cipher:

My darling son and darling daughter.

And even now, as they mature,

I become a wiser man

With each passing moment here,

For they still teach me lessons

Every day.

And despite the failings

And broken things on this big round world,

I become a better person

Because of them,

Each and every passing hour...

That's the magic they have got, sir:

My darling son and darling daughter.

And I endure the pain of knowin'

That, by and by - yes -

I'll soon be goin';

Leavin' 'em on their own again.

And the reason it's so difficult,

Is a result of the knowledge

That I should've made

Their lives much better.

This sense of abject lack and loss

Causes me to fret 'n' toss

As, ever aging, I await the approaching Shade...

So much more, sir,

I oughta've done...

My darling son

And darling daughter.

This Ol' Guitar

(Woody Johnson, August, 2015)

This ol' guitar just can't take much more,

Like my life and the stripes it's bore:

There's marks on every place and part,

The aches and pains of a broken heart.

All kinds of little dents and scratches,

Breaks repaired with tape and patches,

All them little splits and cracks,

Bound with glues and cleats and tacks.

The first one, not so serious,

But ya thought it got hit by a bus!

All because your very first crush

Was holding hands with such and such.

And the second one, in high school land,

You took her out to hear that band,

She left with a guy in a really fast car-

Yeah, that one hurt, and left a scar.

And 40 years on, when the kids were grown

And went out in the world to make a home,

That old git hit the floor once more,

"It ain't gonna sound like it did before",

And you strummed it, thinkin' "It's broke for good".

But, lo and behold, though worse for wear,

The varnish scratched, the wood laid bare,

By god - there was another song in there.

So, when you look at this old guitar

You can see the map of the near and the far,

The miles it's been, the trials it's seen,

Goodtimes, badtimes, nightmares, dreams.

Now: how careful I'm goin' to be,

How protective of its delicacy,

And though it's battered, it's gracefully agein' -

Just listen, mister... it's still singin'.

Blue Highway

(Woody Johnson, May, 2015)

Well it makes no never mind

Which way the wind is blowin'

'Cause you're goin',

And there's nothin' I can do about that;

And it really don't matter

Which way the river's flowin'

It's early mornin',

And you've put on your coat and hat.

It may be early Spring, child,

Or days of last leaves fallin',

Blue Highway's callin',

You gotta do what ya gotta do.

And it makes no difference

Who you leave behind a'waitin'

Don't be hesitatin',

You just gotta see this through now...


Your travelin' shoes

Pen and paper

Hm hm - your old guitar,

You got a long way to go

And a short time to get there

So don't delay,

Hear what I say...

You're gonna start out walkin',

But you might catch a ride,

On and on that

Blue Blue Highway.

And if one day you find

That it's eleven in the afternoon,

Rooster crowin' at the moon

You just stand your ground and fight.

And it won't matter, child,

If it's mid-day or mid-night

Keep doin' what you're doin'

'Cause everything's gonna be alright.

Your travelin' shoes,

Pen and paper,

Hmmm...that old guitar

You got a long way to go

and a short time to get there

So don't delay;

Hear what I say,

You'll start out walkin'

But you might catch a ride

On and on that

Blue, Blue Highway.

There's Still Love

(Woody Johnson/Ron Kassner, 2011)

Well, it's Christmas time again...on this starry night.

All the stores are decorated nice... all those coloured lights

And great big signs that say "Half Price"...

And it all looks so... pretty, really...

And the radio's playin' hymns and carols,

About angels and the birth they herald.

And there's funny songs, too,

About Mommy kissin' you-know-who,

And Christmases both white and blue...

And it all sounds so... sweet, really...

And I guess this, too's, a Christmas song,

A reminder to remember the day you're on...

Amid the shopping throngs and distractions

that I mentioned above,

You know what I'm speaking of:

The lost, the sick, the lonely -

The ones who miss their one and only,

And all the ones who may have forgotten

That there's still love

On this big round world...


(For Paul)

(Woody Johnson, 2005)

I’d like to say a word about my brother,

He’s strong and tough and a stand-up guy,

And we’ve had our share

Of difficult times:

Patches on our clothes,

And sleepin’ in the cold,

Money woes,

And leaky roofs,

He’s strong and tough and a stand-up guy.

He always finds a way to make us laugh,

And we forget about the world

For a couple of hours,

And remember a time

When we were young,

When we were bold,

Swimmin’ in the ocean,

Strugglin' through school,

Tryin' to follow all the rules,

He’s strong and tough and a stand-up guy.

He always told me "Try to do what's right",

And when you are, never back down from the fight,

And even if you lose, you can look at the scar,

And know in your heart that you done the right thing,

Then, the innocent will know that the fight that you bring,

Means you're strong and tough and a stand-up guy.

Well, I'd like to say a word about my brother...


(G. Lahey, January,2013)
(for Ж)

And the music just calls out to me:

I have no choice:

The piper's tune,

The hypnotic stare of Nosferatu,

The sirens' voice...

I answer.

The music is her attitude: spherical…

It's everything about her:

The softness of her perfect skin,

The sensual depths of her voice,


A miracle…


(for Ж)
(Woody Johnson, November 5, 2013)

What love is

Is regretting all those birthdays you missed...

What wisdom is

Is knowing her very touch is a gift...

What happiness is

Is not realizing that you are...

That's what


What it is...

What trust is

Not doubting, just accepting every day...

And what truth is

Are the words to a song that never goes away ...

And what time is

Is a monster that love won't let enter...

That's what


What it is...

And what life is

Is caring for what brings us joy...

And what faith is

Is never giving up, never giving up, never giving up...

And what you are

Is everything I believe in...

And what you are

Is everything I believe in...

And what you are

Is everything I believe in...

The Fire Next Time

(Woody Johnson, July 7, 2012)

Brother, are you righteous?

Sister, are you righteous?

Tell, me have you cast the first stone?

Brother, we're all sinners,

Sister, we're all sinners,

Tell me, do you want to be reborn?

It's an easy thing to do, my brother,

Such an easy thing, my sister:

Forgive yourselves for what you have done...


Mark my words, your soul will shine,

See it shine, see it shine...

Mark my words, your soul will shine,

See it shine...

Forgive yourselves, forgive yourselves,

Or else it's the fire next time...

Next time fire...

Next time fire...

Oh it's gonna be the fire next time...

So, Brother, are you ready?

Sister, are you ready?

Let that gentle rain from heaven ease your mind...

Brother, you get ready,

And Sister, are you ready?

Let that gentle rain from heaven ease your mind...

Let that gentle rain from heaven ease your mind...

The Eighth Island

(Woody Johnson, July 19, 2011)

Beyond the snow-capped peaks

of the island they call Tenerife,

West of Las Palmas is a land of endless mystery.

On this forgiving island

We sail away...

Its ancient mists protect us - para siempre

Y siempre...

Y siempre...

My love and me, my love and me,

Forever to be - el Paraiso...

The music of the conch shell sounds,

And we hurry to the circle of stone,

To be welcomed by the King...

Where we are blessed,

We are blessed,

Where we are blessed beneath the sacred sun

Of San Borondon...

My love and me, my love and me,

Forever to be - el Paraiso...

Sunday in Madrid

(Woody Johnson, July 10, 2011)

Stranger in a strange land,

No money to buy flowers,

But even if ya did,

All the shops are closed right now,

´Cause it´s Sunday...


...It´s Sunday in Madrid...

And everyone´s so kind,

And they tell you where to find a bed

´Cause you´re lost and tired

And it´s Sunday...


...It´s Sunday in Madrid...

And all you want to do

Is tell her that you didn´t mean

All those awful things you said

and that summer sun keeps beatin´ down...



...It´s Sunday in Madrid...

Amazon II

(Woody Johnson, April, 2011)

Why respond to those things with which you disagree


Why draw your sword, raise your shield -

rattle and hiss and take a battle ready position?

I’m all frontal lobe, babe -

Thought you knew at least that much

about me...

So - we disagree about some labour strife -

and politics;

about sex and love, and whether you’re a wife or not...

So what?

You have to prove you’re right

with some offensive strategic strike?

That’s not what my mind is like...

All I wanted - ever wanted -

was to make you smile once in a while...

The Mornin’ After The Last Day

(Woody Johnson, October, 2006)

It’s The Mornin’ After The Last Day,

Mornin’ After The Last Day...

I’ve been waitin’ all my life

For the mornin’ after the last day

Sun’s a-comin’ up,

Sun’s a-comin’ up...

Been too long since I seen the light,

Now it’s The Mornin’ After The Last Day.

I been ridin’ ’round on the wrong wagon,

Ridin’ ’round on the wrong wagon...

Too many mornin’s my jacket’s been striped,

Now it’s The Mornin’ After The Last Day.

Gonna live on this big round world,

Gonna live on this big round world, now...

Ain’t gonna run or hide no more,

It’s The Mornin’ After The Last Day...

It’s The Mornin’ After The Last Day,

The Mornin’ After The Last Day ...

Listen now children to that train whistle whistlin’

It’s The Mornin’ After The Last Day...

The Mornin’ After The Last Day, The Mornin’ After The Last Day...

Listen now, children, to that train whistle whistlin’...

It’s The Mornin’ After The Last Day...


(Eddie Figures)

Whine and complain to me, I’ll never ignore you;

Cry and explain how the pain never ends and I’ll just reach out and hold you.

Cadillac Man

(Woody Johnson)


Cadillac Man, Cadillac Man,

I’m just waitin’ for that Cadillac Man,

I done some bad things in my day,

Looks like they’re catchin’ up to me -

Anyway... I had me a wife and a family,

Wife said, "Eddie, why d’ya mistreat me?"

Late one evenin’ I went out for a walk,

Wasn’t ’til I gained Atlanta that I finally stopped.

I met a gal, she was long and tall,

Told me her man went to the wall,

He got out the very next day,

He’s lookin’ for me now -

Anyway... I passed by a funeral just last week,

I was tired and hungry, branded on my feet,

I followed ’em back to where the widow stays,

They rolled me ’n’ baled me, ’n’ called the police.

I met a gal who was true and good,

Told her I’d stay ’cause I thought I would,

She loved me and fed me and kept my nose clean,

Caught me out gamblin’ an’ she turned mighty mean.


Yeah, Cadillac Man, Cadillac Man,

I’m just waitin’ for that Cadillac Man,

Done some bad things in my day,

Looks like they’re catchin’ up to me -

Anyway... I fell in with some bad companions,

Said, "Listen, now, Eddie - ya out or ya in?"

"All ya gotta do is look out for us all,"

He had a 32-20, now I’m runnin’ from the law.

I always tried to do what I should,

But I turned out bad like Daddy said I would,

Went to school, learned readin’ and cipherin’,

Now it’s cards and dice and a life o’ sin.

That Cadillac car's shiny and black, son,

Takes ya to a place ya don’t come back from;

Cadillac Man is tall and talks nice,

But he’s as cold as the pennies he puts on your eyes.

Yeah, Cadillac Man, Cadillac Man,

I’m just waitin’ for that Cadillac Man,

Done some bad things in my day,

Looks like they’re catchin’ up to me...


Dreamy Town

(Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar)

Come away to Dreamy Town, Mandy Lou, Mandy Lou,

Where the skies don’t never frown, Mandy Lou;

Where the streets is paved with gold,

Where the days is never cold

And no sheep stray from the fold, Mandy Lou.

Ain’t you tired every day, Mandy Lou, Mandy Lou?

Take my hand and come away, Mandy Lou;

To the land where dreams is king,

And my heart holds everything

And my soul will always sing to Mandy Lou.

Take my hand and come with me, Mandy Lou,

Where our hands and hearts are free, Mandy Lou;

Where the sands all glisten white,

And the river shines so bright,

In that dreamland of delight, Mandy Lou.

Come with me to Dreamy Town, Mandy Lou,Mandy Lou

Where the fruit is bendin’ down just for you;

Smooth your furrowed brow of brown

And my love will be its crown,

Come with me to Dreamy Town, Mandy Lou...

Sleepy-Eyed Charlie

(Woody Johnson, February 17, 2010)

You know,
There’s fellas out there
Who never complain,
Mild as a new-born calf;
They talk soft and low,
Never talk mean,
And laugh an easy laugh,
Yes, they laugh an easy laugh...

Sleepy-eyed Charlie was one such a man;
Never said anything much.
Kept a close council,
Worked steady and hard,
A kind-hearted man, sure enough,
A kind-hearted man, yessiree.

He was big and burly,
Had a gap-toothed grin,
Had a smile that sparkled and shone;
His hands were bigger
Than an ordinary man’s,
He sang work songs all day long,
Sang them work songs all day long, sir.

I was nine years old, way back then,
And he kinda took a shine to me;
Told stories ’bout the railroad,
And Parchman Farm,
And stealin’ chickens to feed his family,
He stole chickens to feed his family.

One day I says, "Charlie...",
"Yes, cap’n," says he,
I said, "Charlie, what happened to your eye?"
He looked down at his feet,
Got kinda quiet and said,
"Well, cap’n, I ain’t a-gonna lie,"
"No, suh, I ain’t gonna lie..."

He says, "Now lis'n up, son,
"You’ a'mos' a man,
"Show me dem muscle o’ your’n!"
Then he took to laughin’,
When I stood tall and proud,
He says, "Now lis'en up, cap’n, an’ larn.
"You jus’ lis'en up, now - an’ larn..."

"Ya know I wo'ked de rails
"When I's nigh on 17 -
"Swung a twe've-poun' hammuh lak it 'as play,
"One mawnin' de boss says,
"I wants dat las' hun’ad ya’ds,
"Done by de end o’ t’day,
"Done by de end o’ t’day."

"Now some o’ dem boys
"Quit on de spot,
"Othahs drapped t' der knees and mawned,
"I picked up muh hammuh,
"I wasn a’-gonna stop,
"C’menced singin’ whal de rest o’ dem groaned,
"C’menced singin’ whal de rest o’ dem groaned."

"Now when ya swing dat hammuh,
"Fram de hip on down,
"You mak dat col' steel rang,
"Ya gotta 'it dem spikes,
"Raht dead on,
"Else dey come at ya lak an arry 'n' stang ya,
"Come at ya lak an arry 'n' stang."

I was lookin’ at him talkin’,
He wasn’t lookin’ at me -
He was starin’ out to the west;
Seemed to me he’d forgotten,
I was sittin’ at his feet,
Wonderin’ what was gonna happen next.

He looked down at me, finally,
And with that wonderful grin, says,
"Ya wanna be de bes' when you’s young,
"Ain’t it so?
"Pride’s a mighty pow'ful sin, cap’n,
"Pride’s a mighty awful pow'ful sin, doncha kno'."

"Sho’ will make ya suffah 'n' regret you’ pas'..."
And he looked back out to the westland,
Then he looked at his arms,
Examined them slow,
And he clenched those two mighty hands,
He clenched those two mighty hands.

"We laid de las’ rail, an’ I's still thro'in’ strong,
"Den I felt a li’l pul' in mah sho’dah,
"Jus’ enough t' mak me long,
"An’ when I brought dat hammuh dawn,
"I jus’ di’n’t haf de time t' move ovah,
"I just di’n’t haf de time t'..."

Then he grew kinda quiet, and he looked down at me
And he smiled that careless grin,
Rubbed my head with his hand,
Says, "Time we be gettin’ in,
"You’ mamma’s in de kitch'n cookin’ dinnah,
"You’ mamma’s in de kitch'n cookin’ dinnah..."

You know,
There’s fellas out there
Who never complain,
Mild as a new-born calf;
They talk soft and low,
Never talk mean,
And laugh an easy laugh,
Yes, they laugh a long easy laugh...

First Love/Last Love

For Ж’Н
(Woody Johnson, Dec.30, 2009)

Far from the city streets,
Beyond the country road...

In a deep and sacred forest,
Beneath the high forgiving sun...

At the edge of a lush green field that is yours and yours and yours,
The Great Gates are opened for you...

And the joy and pain of Knowledge is revealed -
To you and you and you,
Who are guilty of nothing more
Than Youth and Innocence.

At The Food Emporium, Toronto

(G. Lahey, Jan. 17, 2010)

Shoppers and sellers,
Mean step-sisters and Cinderellas,
Princes and paupers...
At the Food Emporium.

Orphans and mothers,
Sisterless brothers,
Family-less others...
At the Food Emporium.

Grooms and widowers,
Widows and bachelors,
Old maids and party girls...
At the Food Emporium.
Him without her,
And those without them
Always somethin’ happenin’
At the Food Emporium.

And someone’s watchin’ me
Starin’ without blinkin’,
And writin’ somethin’ down
Prob’ly what I’m thinkin’
At the Food Emporium...

"Please - No More War, Please"

(G. Lahey, January 25, 2009)

The Romantic poets - who write of love, of pain, of loss -
express their joy, their hurt, their overflowing cups,
with words that melt the hearts of all people.

And the Poets of the World
who speak for the children of Palestine,
the children of Somalia,
the children of Chechnia,
the children of Rawanda,
the children of Sierra Leone,
the children of Congo,
the children of Israel,
the children of Mumbai -
the children of all gods -
express their pain, their loss, their love -
with the words of children,
with words that all ears comprehend,
with words that all hearts feel,
because those words are the arrows of truth
and they carry with them one plea...

Now, I Know

(G. Lahey)

When we walked alone at night,
I just wasn’t sure,
Even when you held my hand that tight,
I couldn’t be certain.

And even when we watched exploding stars,
When we marveled at the infinite,
Aurora Borealis,
Even then I questioned everything.

But, that was then...

Now, I know -
And not only that, I am unwavering in my certitude,
About everything - everything.
And now, in my solitude,
I know that only one thing matters - - -
But it is too late for that.

What Frightens Me

(G. Lahey, November, 2006)

What frightens you?
I’ll tell you what frightens me:
The thought that I denied the Truth.

What frightens you?
I’ll tell you what frightens me:
The thought I could be blind to the Truth.

What frightens you?
I’ll tell you what frightens me:
The thought that I ’s unkind
’cause jealousy had blinded me;
and I was caught reeling from the Truth.

What frightens you?
I’ll tell you what frightens me:
It’s the thought that I wouldn’t
Be the man she thought I could.

To Babylon

(Woody Johnson, September, 2007)

Yesterday I thought I saw you,
Walkin’ down the street,
And my heart began to break,
My heart began to break,
My heart began to break all over again.

If ya only knew how much I missed you,
How I struggle to find peace,
Each day I ask the Lord to bless you,
Each day I ask the Lord to bless you,
Each day I ask the Lord to bless you, "Have mercy on her, please."

On that long lost road to Babylon.

I know I’m shoutin’ in the wilderness,
I know no one understands,
But if I cannot do this,
If I cannot do this,
If I cannot do this, I’ll surely lose my mind.

On that long lost road to Babylon.
On that long lost road to Babylon.

My Life

(G. Lahey, October 7, 2009)

When will my life begin again?
I have changed my voice,
I have changed my body,
I have changed my mind.
I have changed myself.

From this placenta I have emerged,
Ageless, yet with rooted teeth;
Thoughtless, but with one vision.
Innocent, yet awaiting judgement:
On my all too human soul the stain of love’s denial...

I await the darkness and I await the light.
And with this rebirth, I am out of time.

Hello, Words

(G. Lahey, September, 2009)

Hello, words.
You have something to say to me?
Go ahead - I’m ready...

What’s that?
You say that life is good.
Yes... continue.
You say that there is no need to fear, to want, to need, to obtain.
You say that I can go on.
You say that I can dream, that I can breathe again, that I can travel this endless road and be inspired.
This is true? I hope this is so...
You say that the things that seem to matter don’t, and the things that don’t seem, will.

I will breathe the fire of desir.
I will search for those things that will make me stronger.
I will hunger for The One and my hunger shall be sated.
You say the journey is the destination, and that to fall into love is to love.


The Things That Matter

(G. Lahey, October 10, 2009)

The things that matter are not things.
They are not material.
They are not made to sell.
They cannot be unwrapped and held.

The things that matter are of the heart.
Do you know what I mean, son?
They are not what is given, but rather what is understood by the giving. It is not the gift that brings joy, it is the giving’s reason.

The things that matter are time,
The things that matter are gestures and warm glances,
The things that matter must be taught and
Never forgotten.

Why The Caged Bird Sings

(G. Lahey, September 15, 2009)

"I know why the caged bird sings", says one whom I admire...
To be captured and imprisoned by love - it’s a burning inner fire.
Then, you sing of l’ennui, ’cause you’ve lost your freedom and flight,
And being possessed, and limited: then you covet all that’s within sight.

We were together - no, not for long, but that’s just what you required,
To be held, to be subdued, then to regret the dousing of desires.
And when we danced, you danced for them: la coquette, yes, this I know,
’Cause they came to you, and as you spoke you caressed their ribbons and bows.
And you danced, the dance of Salome, mi cabeza that was your prize,
And this you won, and when I conceded, shock and remorse was your disguise.

Tom Waits’ Voice

(Woody Johnson, October 20, 2009)

His voice says: "I have measured the depth of emptiness - I have been to its centre -
I have come back to tell you about the joy of life."

The voice says: "As you drive along the back streets, look at the sparkle of broken glass
Listen to the howls of brief laughter,
Watch for the smiles that appear only seldomly on the faces of the forgotten ones
And remember them."

The voice says: "I have only a short time to tell you something of vast importance,
so listen closely."

The voice says: "I have been beaten and left for dead,
But I have come back to tell you not to give up."

And the listeners, they seem to applaud, not just the songs,
But the simple truths about Love and Hope;
They applaud the Joy of Life.


(Woody Johnson, December 21, 2004)

She’s so pretty,
You just wanna smile when you look at her face,
And when she speaks,
You want the whole human race to listen,
And when she loves ya,
You just wanna love her back,
But she won’t let you,
She makes her escape
And you just gotta let her.

She’s so pretty,
Everybody wants to be her friend,
And when she smiles,
She mends everything that was broken,
And when she’s hurtin’,
You just wanna hold her in your arms,
But she won’t let you,
She makes her escape,
And you just gotta forget her.


She’s so wise,
You just wanna sit at her feet and learn,
She’s so honest,
You know what you’re hearin’ is always the truth,
And when she’s silent,
You want the whole wide world to hush,
And leave her in peace,
So she can forget
So she can escape.

And after she’s gone,
You know you won’t see her no more,
And so you try to get back to life before you met her,
And then she returns,
Knocks on your door and wants to come in,
And so you let her,
’Cause you just can’t forget her,
And it starts all over again.

She’s so pretty,
She turns every head in the place,
And when she looks in your eyes,
You feel your heart begin to race,
And maybe she’ll let you,
Hold her in your arms for a couple of hours
And then she escapes,
And ya gotta forget her all over again,
Yeah she makes her escape,
And it starts all over again...

She’s so pretty....

What’s Truth, Daddy?

(G. Lahey, November 18, 2009)

Truth is not, and never was, anything.
Truth is everything, and always will be.

Truth is sacrificed every day on the altar of human vanity.
Truth is worshipped only by those who cannot speak, cannot hear, cannot see.

Truth must be avoided by as many people as possible, as often as possible.
Truth must be confronted now.

Truth is like ancient parchment: only broken fragments remain.
Truth is unbreakable, unshakeable, adamantine.

Truth is Beautiful,
Truth is often Ugly

Truth is despair.
Truth is hope.

Truth is an enemy of the people.

Truth is the mother of Justice.


(G. Lahey, August 27, 2009)

Used to be sailin’,
Friends and relations
Along for the ride,
My baby - yeah, by my side.
Just sailin’, mister, sailin’.

Tamed the wind: tacking, navigating,
Glidin’ along,
Singin’ all those sailor songs.
Land was another planet, cold and foreign
’Cause we were sailin’.

With the minstrels, now, and the bards,
Smilin’, but this life is hard.
Now the wild breezes push us
Along these boulevards,
And I long for the sea, the salty westerlies,
Drftin’, mister, driftin’.

There are other wanderers
Dancers, poemsters, wordsmiths,
Songsters, and old snake charmers,

Heading for the theres, appearing at the heres,
Wearing their hearts on sleeves stained with tears,
We’re driftin’, mister, driftin’.

The Highway, yeah, it’s blue, alright,
We start out walkin’ ’cause we might get a ride,
And sometimes at night, a Malaga dancer by our side,
Swaying to the music - ah! the music! - that’s what keeps us alive
While we’re driftin’, mister, driftin’.

Pillar of Salt

(G. Lahey, 2008)

I followed these,
My only visions: there, ahead of me, my future;
The becoming that would save me;
Strength and ease.
No longer solo; rising before me, City of God:
The belonging I was craving.
Then, Odysseus’ seas,
Then the Sirens’ call:
No cords or chains for binding -
And I cast my gaze behind me...

Growin’ Up

(Woody Johnson)

Well, you’re just a little boy
And with your brand new little toy
You break a tiny feathered thing.

Then, when you’re a teen
It’s words you fling and
They injure, too, and sting,
An’ cause a lot of suffering and pain.

And when you reach your youth
You’re more physical and ruthless,
And when you strike, you’re guiltless, with no signs of remorse...
You didn’t think about forgiveness,
Didn’t think about redemption,
No pity, no regret, no conscience - or even consciousness...

Then, one day you’re a man,
And you’re in love, but you deny it,
Without knowing what effect that’s gonna have upon your heart.
And that little feathered thing,
You see it gasping in your fingers,
And you think about unkindness
And those words when you were mindless,
And the hurt you put upon those who were weaker, blind, and blameless,
And you begin to pray in earnest,
And you beg for Grace and Mercy,
And you weep in abject silence
For absolution
And for peace.

Hard To Bear

(For the Parents Of Angie Pirog)
(G. Lahey, November 23, 2009)

We seldom know what to expect
Even when we know it’s comin’ down the line.
When it does, finally,
It’s always "Lama sabachthani?"

And the ones that know
That it’s comin for them -
Well it’s so hard to bear;
The ones that Know it’s comin’ -
It’s just so hard to bear
The knowledge that they do.

Mornin’ After The Last Day

(Woody Johnson, 2009)

It’s the mornin’ after the last day,
Mornin’ after the last day.
I’ve been waitin’ all my life
For the mornin’ after the last day.

Sun’s a-comin’ up.
Sun’s a-comin’ up.
Been too long since I seen the light,
Now it’s the mornin’ after the last day.

I’ve been ridin’ ’round on the wrong wagon.
’Ridin ’round on the wrong wagon;
Too many mornin’s my jacket’s been striped,
Now it’s the mornin’ after the last day.

Gonna live on this big round world now.
Gonna live on this big round world,
Ain’t gonna run or hide no more,
It’s the mornin’ after the last day.

It’s the mornin’ after the last day,
Mornin’ after the last day -
Listen now children, to that train whistle whistlin’...
It’s the mornin’ after the last day.

Movin’ On

(Woody Johnson, November 23, 2009)

I’m movin’ on,
Nothin’ wrong with that.
Where’d I put my hat?
I’m gonna follow that callin’...

Nothin’ wrong with that.
I’ve had enough,
Throwin’ in the towell, an’
There’s nothin’ wrong with that anyhow...


I’m done hangin’,
With that stranglin’ hold ya had on me,
Wonderin’ if we’re done,
Well, honey babe, I’m all out an’ down.

So, cancel that beer,
I’m movin’ on,
On outta here, sister.

Yeah, I’m movin’ on,
There’s nothin’ wrong with that.
Where’s my goddamn hat?
I’m followin’ that callin’...

Never Knew

(G. Lahey, December 25, 2009)

I never knew
That what I was holding in the palm of my hand
In the palm of my hand
In the palm of my hand
Was what I was seeking.

I never knew
That what I was holding in the palm of my hand
In the palm of my hand
In the palm of my hand
Was what I was needing.

I never knew
That what I had in the palm of my hand
In the palm of my hand
In the palm of my hand
Was the key to my being.

Now it’s ramblin’ and rollin’ and the kindness of strangers,
Sleepin’ in graveyards where you’re never in danger,
The open road, ’n’ freightcars in trainyards,
Don’t ask my advice, sir, ’cause I’ll just steer ya wrong.

The Silver Tree

(G. Lahey, September 21, 2009)

This was your vision,
As we writhed, entwined,
As those who are destined by fate often do.
Above your head, captured by your eye in a fleeting moment,
A daisy,
Perfect in its elegance,
Simple, pure, radiant,
Its base a fractured mirror, luminescent - like rippled water, flowing.

This was when we became true lovers.

The Raggedy Man

(Poem by James Whitcomb Riley, Bowen-Merrill Publishing Company, 1886; adapt. Gregory Lahey, 2007)

The Raggedy Man he works for Pa,

He's the goodest man that you ever saw.

He comes to our house every day

an' waters the horses,

Feeds 'em hay.

And when he opens the shed, well, we just laugh

When he drives out that wobbly-legged calf.

And if the hired girl says he can,

He'll milk the cow for Elizabeth-Ann.

Ain't he an awful good Raggedy man...?

The Raggedy Man, why, he's so good

He splits the kindlin' and chops the wood;

And then he spades our garden, too,

Why, he can do most things that boys can't do.

And once, he climbed clean up that tree

And he shook down an apple for me,

And another one, too, for Elizabeth-Ann

And another one, too, for the hired hand;

Oh! Ain't he an awful kind Raggedy Man...?!

Y'know, The Raggedy Man, well, one time he

Was makin' a little bow and arrow for me,

And he said, "When you're big like your pa is

"Are you gonna keep a fancy store like his?

"And will ya be a rich merchant, and wear fine clothes?

"What ya gonna be, boy, Goodness knows?"

Then he smiled and laughed at Elizabeth-Ann

And I said, "I'm a-gonna be a Raggedy Man.

"I'm gonna be a good, kind, Raggedy Man - just like you!"

Tender Mercies

(Woody Johnson, May, 2015)

Monday mornin'

Clock's a wailin'

Sun ain't even touched the hills.

My back's complainin'

Take a couple o' pills, sir,

And it's one foot in front of the other again.

Coffee black,

Eggs over easy,

Out the door 'fore 6 a.m.

"How d'ya do it?" everyone asks me,

"Day after day, after each and every?"


You might say,

"Hey - how d'ya do it?

"Don't ya get sick and tired and done?"

I say Nope -

I'm a lucky old git:

I love the rain as much as the sun.

Through the gate,

Hello to the fellas,

Foreman's still hollerin' in the yard.

Grab my lid

Lace up the ol' Stellas,

Sip my coffee, punch my card.

Work, eat, sleep,

Six days a week,

Paid on Friday, church on Sunday...

Ain't complainin'

I'm just sayin' that's how it is

From Monday to Monday.

Spare time

I go see my children,

Thank the Lord for the little things.

Am I lucky?

Well ain't I smilin'?

Oh! tender mercies - of thee I sing.

Work day's over,

Earned my dollar

Tired and sore, but feel pretty good.

Dust myself off,

Take a swallow o' water,

Did my job just the way I should.


You might ask me,

"Hey ain't ya fed up?

"Doin' the same old day to day run?"

Hell, I got my health,

And these tender mercies

Love moon beams as much as the rays o' the sun...

You might say,

"Why don't ya give up?

"Give your back a rest, have a little fun?"

Well, I don't mind sweat, sir,

Toil or swelter,

'Cause at the end of the day tender mercies come.


(Woody Johnson, March 3, 2011)

I sent my dream aloft so many times: the thinnest thread attached to it...
And as it rose, I always held it tight,
Afraid to release it, afraid that I would lose it forever each time...
My toes just touching the earth
As it tried to set itself free...
Then I whispered, "There it goes..."
Each time thinking, "The wind that blows shall divert it from its course - god knows..."

Then, one day, out of the infinite blue of sky and cosmos
I received a reply:
A sunny smile and her beautiful child,
The one
I hope to never lose...


(Woody Johnson, Feb. 23, 2010)

Somewhere out on the edge of time,
Wonderin’ if I was even alive or just dreamin’...

And a light was streamin’ from somewhere above,
And a voice said, "Do not fear."
And beckoned me with open arms,
Sayin’, "Here is better than there..."

And I saw angelic faces, Miss,
And I heard the rustle of wings,
And a choir of a thousand voices
Singin’ "Swing low, sweet chariot, swing..."

But I know I wasn’t dreamin’, sir,
It was real, I could tell,
And it was temptin’ to close my eyes
And forget the tollin’ of the bell.

It was a funny place to find myself,
On the Universe’s edge -
Between the woods and icy lake,
Exactly like what Frost had said...

And I remembered all the things I loved,
And I recalled the one I hurt,
I remembered musicians and painters and poets,
All the angels who walk this earth.

And I resolved to change my life, sir,
No matter what consequence or cost,
And somehow find some way to regain,
All the good that I had lost.

Somewhere out on the edge of time,
Knowin’ that I was still alive, ma’am,
Not dreamin’ or wonderin’ what was real,
Just knowin’ that I was alive...

The Brand New Heartbreak Hotel

(Woody Johnson, September, 2006)

At the brand new Heartbreak Hotel
Nobody’s cryin’ in their beer;
We're laughin’ and singin’,
And dancin’ and doin’
some serious drinkin’ over here.

We’re gamblin’ away the last of our pay
And actin’ just like we don’t care;
But ask any of us why,
We’re so merry and bright,
We get quiet, tear up, and just stare.


At the brand new Heartbreak Hotel
Nobody feels any pain, sir;
’Cause Doc sets ’em up,
We keep knockin’ ’em back,
Again and again and again, sir.

And everyone’s smilin’, talkin’ and grinnin’
As the last call for the bar approaches;
The music gets louder,
The dance floor gets crowded,
As the band plays "The Tennessee Waltz".


At the brand new Heartbreak Hotel
They turn up the lights and we see
How crowded and lonely it gets at the bottom
At the bottom of every empty.


(G. Lahey, September 12, 2009)

Who was she? What was her name - the one who made you pray...
She called to you, you answered;
She asked, and you came,
She whispered in your ear and you listened,
And then you made her smile.

Why did she do to you those things that made you sad?
Why did she not listen to your words of truth, of devotion, of strength, of love?
You were a light, Antonio, and a fire; and now your heart - the heart that was the eternal source - it beats for no one.

We miss you, Antonio.

My Name, Your Name

(Woody Johnson, October,2006)

My name is important because
It means I have a family.
And your name is important, too,
’Cause it means you have a family like me.
And our names are important because...because...
Yes, our names are important because
It means that we are loved

Now your name might sound unfamiliar
To my ear
And my name
Might sound funny to you,
But it doesn’t mean what I’m sayin’ isn’t true.

That our names are important because...because...
Our names are important because
It means that we are loved...


(G. Lahey, December 30, 2009)

Poor little Aschenputtel
Works so very hard in Schule.
And when she returns home
She works her fingers to the bone -
Then Stiefmutter works her harder...

Poor little Aschenputtel,
Her Stiefschwestern are so cruel,
Sometimes they send her to her room,
And when she’s all alone
She is mehr das traurigere.

But little Aschenputtel
Has eine freunde und ein aufrechter Mensch:
A little Fee-Schwester,
Who takes away her pain
And offers her a refuge
When her hands begin to blister...

Little Aschenputtel,
Don’t you worry, not a little,
There’s a home for you out there,
A place for you to settle...

Sorge’ Sie sich nicht, Little Aschenputtel,
A Prince is searching for you:
Für eine hübsche Prinzessin in einem Arbeitskittel.

My Good Book

(G. Lahey, December 18, 2009)

My Good Book ain’t about killin’ for glory,
It’s not about vengeance,
In the name of the faith.
It’s not about hatred
For them that are pagans,
The withdrawal of the sword in exchange for compliance.

The words I read don’t mention some world
On some other plane
Beyond this vale of tears;
They don’t need repeating
Again and again,
These words plead for tolerance towards those without shame.

My Good Book is about making this life
A musical place full of art and belonging;
My Good Book calls for study and playing,
It’s for children and freedom,
For redemption and song.

So wrap them all up in bright scarlet ribbons,
While those jasper gates up in Heaven are swingin’,
Release all the innocents you’re holdin’ for ransom,
And return them to those
Who claim Life as their King,
and Love as their Queen.


(Woody Johnson, October 9, 2009)

I took the strings from my guitar,
and I gave them to a vagabond.

I gave away my numbers,
and I stopped my world from spinnin’ ’round.

I gave away the colours that only I could see at night,
and I gave away the mornings that I found.

I gave away my water,
and all that grew from my furrowed ground.

I gave away my seasons,
the axis of my stone.

I gave away warm golden rays,
and the force that strengthens bone.

I removed the rhythms and the beat,
and gave away time’s home.

I gave away the spoken truth,
now I live by its secretive tone.

I stopped the machinery of desire,
and from the infinite keep an only one.


(Woody Johnson, October 26, 2009)

"Is there something wrong?" I asked,
"Is there something wrong?"
She wiped away her tears and said,
"This day was not very long."
And then she sighed, and bowed her head.
"Too soon the day is over."

"Whatever do you mean?" I asked,
And I asked her once again.
She dried a tear and then another,
"Another day’s come to an end,
"I awake, and soon it’s over.
"I awake, and soon, it’s over."

Too soon, too soon -
And all of us, I know -
We take for granted the sunlit hours,
We forget that ill winds blow,
And see only the blooming flowers.
And then, too soon, it’s over.
And then, too soon, it's over.

Oh, mother, my dear mother,
How well you understood,
The simple truths of Love, of Grace,
Humility and Good,
Prayers and Joy and Kindness and Faith...
And then, too soon, it’s over.

And the days for me pass quickly;
And my nights are blue and restless,
And labour is tiring and difficult now,
And though every effort is my best,
My heart sighs and my tears flow, too:
This lovely day - too soon it’s over.
This lovely day how soon it's over.

Curds and Cream

(For Paul)
(Woody Johnson)

Paul will never know
That I wrote this for him.
He won’t know what you now know: that I love him dearly,
’Cause his life is filled with Grace and Charm.
Loved by many, for he does no harm to anyone.

He laughs with the honesty of the innocent.
He satisfies his appetites without offense
And with the manners and politesse of ambassador and prince.
His wealth is empathy and sympathy and justice.
And this will sustain him,
For he is loved by many, because of his kind ways.

His art is in his living,
His ability to understand and analyze
Each all too human fault.
He gently reminds, and with kind gestures redirects,
Until we realize that we can be just like him:
Loved by many, if we change our ways.

I Ain’t Lookin’ At The Moon No More

(Woody Johnson, lyric, 2009)
(October 5, 2009)

Every time I look at the moon,
I see the past.
I ain’t lookin’ at the moon no more,
I ain’t lookin’ at the moon no more.

Waxin’ moon, wanin’ moon,
Now I know that nothin’ lasts.
I once was rich, now I’m so poor.
I ain’t lookin’ at the moon no more.

When it’s ghostly lemon in August,
I remember walkin’ through the snow,
And not even carin’
How far we had to go.
Lookin’ up there and thinkin’
How beautiful the night,
Laughin’ in the wind,
You holdin’ my arm that tight.

And the thumbnail moon in May,
Makes me think of cool November,
And all those nights gettin’ warm -
And oh how I remember,
That light streamin’ in through a sleepy window,
Seein’ the magic of its caress
Upon your perfect face, resting on my smilin’ pillow.
I just can’t look at the moon no more.

And that round yellow August moon:
I wonder where you are now, an’ wonder how you’re doin...’
I once was rich, now I’m so poor:
I ain’t lookin’ at the moon no more.

Ukelele Girl

(Woody Johnson)

Wrote this tune ’bout a gal I know,
When she sings my little heart go’...

musical notes

She’s so pretty she makes me smile an’ it
Make’ my heart beat a mile a minute - goin’...
musical notes

An’ when she leaves, I don’t know why,
My little heart it’ll heave and sigh;
Sometimes I think I’m a-gonna cry
My little heart a-goin’...

musical notes

One o’ these days an’ it’s gonna be soon
Gonna set her down and play this tune
While my little heart goes ’Boom Boom Boom’
Goin’ ...

musical notes

’Cause she’s so pretty, goodness sakes,
If I can’t see her my little heart aches.
Sometimes I think it’s just a-gonna break,

musical notes

Hellhound On My Trail

(Woody Johnson, August, 2006)

Oh, Lord,
I got a hellhound on my trail.
Oh, Lord!
I got a hellhound on my trail,
His path is sure and steady,
He ain’t got but one thought in his head, Lordy, Lord!
I got a hellhound on my trail.

Well, he knows me better than I know myself.
He knows me better than I know myself!
He’s peered deep inside my heart,
And he knows my future’s dark,
Lord, he knows me better than I know myself.

Lord, you know that I ain’t scared of dyin’.
Lord, you know that I ain’t scared of dyin’!
In this world of fear and lyin’.
Well, I done my share of cryin’,
So you know - I ain’t scared of dyin’.

And I can feel his cold breath on the back of my neck.
I can feel his cold breath on the back of my neck!
He’s whisperin’ somethin’ in my ear now,
But, Lord, I don’t feel any fear,
An’ I can feel his cold breath on the back of my neck.

Well, I’m just gonna turn myself around now.
Lord, I’m just gonna turn myself around now!
I know my time has surely come,
I’m gonna stop now, I ain’t gonna run,
I’m just gonna turn myself around now.

Oh, Lord, have mercy on me please.
Oh, Lord, have mercy on me please!
Yeah, I caused some folks lots of pain,
I ain’t gonna ask You but once again,
Oh, Lord, have mercy on me please.

On The Lost Highway

(Woody Johnson, 2008)

You know what they’re sayin’ ’bout him,
’Bout why he don’t come ’round no more?
They say it’s about that woman
In them last songs he wrote.

And some folks they’re claimin’
That he don’t come ’round no more
’Cause of somethin’ that changed him,
Tore him apart, note by note.


They tell me he don’t come ’round,
They say that he left town,
He’s gone and gone to stay,
And some say he’s dead and gone.
Some say they heard he went out west,
Some say he went to Spain,
Some say he’s gone to see the King,
Up there singin’ with old Blind Willie.

He’s well nigh on his way, sir,
Forever ramblin’, that’s for sure,
Draggin’ that old guitar behind him,
Down that long Lost Highway, amigo.

Well he stopped makin’ hay, ma’am,
Lost all hope, and there ain’t no cure,
A Blue Highway that has no end,
and it’s ’Adios, para siempre, senor’.

Levee Camp Moan


I’m goin’ where nobody knows my name, Lord, Lord, Lord.
I’m goin’ where nobody knows my name.
I’m goin’ where nobody knows my name.

I’m goin’ where the chilly winds don’t blow, Lord, Lord, Lord.
I’m goin’ where the chilly winds don’t blow.
I’m goin’ where the chilly winds don’t blow.

I’m goin’ where they don’t shovel no snow, Lord, Lord, Lord.
I’m goin’ where they don’t shovel no snow.
I’m goin’ where they don’t shovel no snow.

I’m leavin’ on the KC line this mornin’, Lord, Lord, Lord.
I’m leavin’ on the KC line this mornin’.
I’m leavin’ on the KC line this mornin’.

O baby, where you been so long? Lord, Lord, Lord.
O baby, where you been so long?
O baby, where you been so long?

O baby, let your hair hang down, Lord, Lord, Lord.
O baby, let your hair hang down.
O baby, let your hair hang down.

O baby, you done let your hair grow long, Lord, Lord, Lord.
O baby, you done let your hair grow long.
O baby, you done let your hair grow long.

[Additional verse by W. Johnson]

I’m leavin’ baby, don’t you want to go? Lord, Lord, Lord.
I’m leavin’ baby, don’t you want to go?
I’m leavin’ baby, what you waitin’ for?

Miss M’Lindy


(attributed to Joel Chandler Harris)

Oh my Miss M’Lindy,

You’re much too sweet for me,

I cannot come to see you,

Until my time is free.

And when I come to see you,

Gonna take you on my knee.

Oh my Miss M’Lindy,

Don’t you go away,

I cannot come to see you,

For another day,

And when I come to see you

Y’know I’m gonna stay.

Oh my Miss M’Lindy,

You’re the only one,

I cannot come to see you,

Until my time is done.

And when I come to see you

You know we’ll have some fun.

Oh my Miss M’Lindy,

My heart belongs to you,

I cannot come to see you,

Until my time is through.

And when I come to see you

Gonna come in my canoe.

Oh Solitude

(Music: Henry Purcell; Words: Katherine Philips, adapted from Marc-Antoine Girard de Saint-Amant)

Oh! Solitude! My sweetest choice!

Oh Solitude! Oh solitude, my sweetest choice!

Places devoted to the night,

Remote from tumult and from noise,

How ye, my restless thoughts delight!

Oh Solitude! Oh Solitude! My sweetest, sweetest choice!

Oh Heavens! What content is mine,

To see those trees, which have appeared from the Nativity of time;

And which all ages have revered,

To look today as fresh and green,

To look today as fresh and green,

As when their beauty first were seen?

Oh! Oh how agreeable a sight

These hanging mountains do appear,

Which the unhappy would invite

To finish all their sorrows here;

When their hard, their hard fate makes them endure

Such woes, such woes as only death can cure.

Oh! Oh how I solitude adore!

Oh! Oh how I solitude adore,

That element of noblest wit,

Where I have learned,

Where I have learned Apollo’s love

Without the pains, the pains to study it:

For thy sake I in love am grown,

With what thy fancy, thy fancy does pursue;

But when I think upon my own,

I hate it, I hate it for that reason, too;

Because it needs must hinder me

From seeing, from seeing, and from serving thee.

Oh Solitude!

Oh how solitude I adore!

Hymn: Thou Art Lovely Source of True Delight

(Anne Steele 1716-1778)

Thou lovely source of true delight whom I unseen adore
Unveil Thy beauties to my sight that I might love Thee more
Oh that I might love Thee more

Thy glory o’er creation shines yet in Thy sacred word
I read in fairer brighter lines my bleeding, dying Lord
Oh my bleeding, dying Lord

’Tis here whene’er my comforts droop and sin and sorrows rise
Thy love with cheering beams of hope my fainting heart supplies
My fainting heart’s supplied

And ah too soon the pleasing scene is clouded over with pain
My gloomy fears rise dark between and I again complain
Oh and I again complain

Jesus my Lord, my life, my light, oh come with blissful ray
Break radiant through the shades of night and chase my fears away
Won’t you chase my fears away

Then shall my soul with rapture trace the wonders of Thy love
But the full glories of Thy face are only known above
They are only known above

Hymn: Saviour Do Not Pass Me By

(Fanny J. Crosby, 1868)

Pass me not, O gentle Saviour,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Saviour, do not pass me by.

Saviour, Saviour,
Hear my humble cry:
While on others Thou art calling,
Saviour, do not pass me by.

Let me at Thy throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief;
Kneeling there in deep contrition,
Help my unbelief.


Little Niña

(Woody Johnson, 2006)

(for Ж)

Long, long ago... long ago...
There was a soundless child who stood
On one side of an old shopkeeper’s window...
Always very quiet... very very still - and silent, don’t you know...
...but with such eyes...!
And a little doll, in a plain and blue and shabby dress
Became the world to her...
When suddenly a mother saw
Her ponderous, lovely daughter
Staring through and smiling at the ragged little moppet.
She asked if there was something there
She wanted to possess...
And ever oh - oh ever oh - so - slowly...slow,
The tiny dark-eyed stoic one
Raised her hand with fingers clenched,
Unfurled her tiny curled up fist
And placed it on the cold clear glass
And looking up,
And blinking once,
She whispererd in her raspish voice,


(Woody Johnson, October 28, 2012)

(for Ж)

Like the leaves in autumn,

The winds carry you away.

They take you.

And there's nothing I can do...

The moon and sun

That pull the tides away,

They take you, too.

And there's nothing I can do...

Though you are strong

Like granite stones, away,

The river takes you.

And there's nothing I can do...

When the day is done,

The shadows come, and soon, away,

They take you.

And there's nothing I can do...

Nothing I can do

To change you.

Nothing I can say

To keep you

From the things that take you


I know better...

Such folly

To keep you

From the things that take you


Because I know

That to heed the call

Of all the things

That take you

Makes you happy;

That you need nothing more

Than to be in thrall

Of all the things that take you...


And I will be content,

To do nothing to keep you,

From these things that make you happy,

From those things that make you happy,

From all and everything that takes you...


Onegin’s Fate

(G. Lahey, 2010 - 2011)


And here – does Onegin’s story end?

But why? Yvegney is not one to cry,

And, if his heart’s forever rent,

What’s he to do? Go off to die?

Is this his fate: left on a page

Like a bird locked in some cage?

Here then – the poet’s fate thereafter:

What follows: Yvegny’s disaster.

I know the course that he has taken;

I know the compass points that lead him.

His poet’s heart reduced to tin,

All alone now and forsaken.

This will be his and Tanya’s story:

Will they find sorrow? Will they find Glory?


And what of Tanya? Now recovered,

The Prince gives her a gentle kiss

And whispers, “What’s all this?” Discovers

The door flung wide, as she dismisses

It as nothing. “Just a guest,

“Who had to leave; he sends regrets.”

She smiles, and easily conceals

Her pounding heart, her mind that reels.

But she remains composed,

As she takes hold her husband’s arm.

Her hardened soul can feel no harm,

Yet to the door her glance is cast:

Now closed against the night so vast.


Soon, the music is diminished,

The last guests compliment their hosts.

The evening blossomed, bloomed, and finished,

The happy couple, lovers, like most,

Go arm-in-arm. Then Tanya places hand to brow,

And makes a sudden complaint that now

She feels such pain, as though

She’s received a serious blow,

And whispers that she must lie down,

As Prince N. takes her in his arms,

To the drawing room, conceals alarm

And sends for Tanya’s nurse to come.

He sits, and looks into her eyes,

He sees her pain, but knows not why.


Prince N, unsure of a course of action,

Sends his coachman for the doctor,

He flies off now in that direction,

Swiftly passed the town’s clocktower.

Now he bangs the door so furiously,

The physician answers, looking curiously

Upon the blacksmith’s face and asks,

“Why come so late? A birth? A casket?

“What cannot wait

Until the morning?” The smithy, breathless,

Weak and tired, fearing death – or worse! – states

“Princess Tanya! We must make haste!”

And without another word,

The physician packs elixirs and cures.


And Onegin’s carriage, through the night

Is racing, too: his purpose fierce,

And halts outside his grand estate.

Onegin, forlorn, his face is serious,

With deep despair, takes all his notes,

Sonnets, ballads – all he’s wrote –

And into the hearth dispatches

All and sundry: cards and letters from paramours,

Collected over many years.

Pictures of lovers once “près du coeur”,

Then reaches for his finest cognac,

To watch the inferno - ‘till all goes black…


The doctor dismounts from the hack,

The valet, maids and household staff,

All a-twitter, the doors flung wide with a resounding “clack”,

Tanya delirious: “Has he come back?!”

Then furrows her brow and with a grimace

Falls into a deep morass.

The Prince arrives, the doctor in tow,

Taking her pulse, “Her heartbeat’s slow!”

Touching her cheek, “She has the fever…”

Opens his bag, prepares the injection,

“What is it, Doctor?”

“I fear, infection!”

He sighs, and says "We musn’t move her…

“Prepare her bed and toilette here!” Then turns: “She will endure.”

Prince N whispers, “Are you sure…?”


Morning: The sun, again arisen,
Onegin’s fire, long diminished...
He awakens, cold and stiffened,
While Tanya’s warmed by flames unfinished.
Yvegney blinks: His eyes are stinging,
He stands, unsteady, his ears are ringing
With the sound of a name – Tatyana’s name.
He looks at the fireplace once again,
Then turns, and now begins to gather
The things he’ll need for his endless journey:
Boots, shoes and box-back coats, serenely
Placed into valises – what’s left? No matter,
Except the safe-box: Removes his bonds,
His deeds – all that he owns.


He splashes water on his face,
Then to the stables, the door is opened
To Sasha Goncharova’s place.
“Prepare the coach!” and poor Sasha’s sleep is broken,
“And load my trunk and my valise!”
“Yes, sire.” And Sasha’s on his feet.
Windows are locked, all doors secured,
Messages sent to those inured
To mind the estate in Onegin’s absence,
“…and forward mail to…? “I know not yet.
“I’ll send you word when I am settled.”
And soon they’re beyond the country fences,
And at la Gare St. Petersburg,
“A one-way passage -” a whistle blows: he can’t be heard…


Cold compresses are held in place,
To the forehead of Tatyana.
Temperature checked and heartbeat traced,
The doctor prepared throughout the night the
Concoctions he knew to cure her ills:
Some were elixers, some were pills,
As Tatyana writhed all the nocturne
And mumbled a name none could discern.
Her nurse, close by, filled with concern:
The others cannot know its meaning!

She heard his name throughout the evening,

And now knows what has brought this on...

And praying to god in silent hope,

Prince N finds a means to cope.

Part II


The train can have healing effects:
One speeds through countrysides and towns,
There’s rhythms in the railway tracks,
There’s comfort when the whistle sounds.
The atmosphere is slow relaxing,
Arrivals, departures - their calculating
Is done ahead of time;
No tables to clear after you dine,
Your sheets and towels are always clean,
Your meals and bed prepared for you,
Each morning one awakes, renewed!
The coffee’s served with Berkshire cream,
And one forgets one’s cares and woes,
One sleeps and dreams of kind tomorrows


But for some, this isn’t true:
The train does not speed fast enough,
And the clicking rails are only due
To poor construction: the ride is rough.
And when the whistle sounds, it’s harsh,
Abrupt and loud, like a mongrel’s bark;
And can one relax when bored to tears?
The angst of being here nor there?
And meals aren’t served fast enough,
Berths not ready when you want to retire,
Sleep’s uneasy: one awakes with ire...


And the people!! Just want to converse!
Inquring into the personal:
"What do you do? (How thick’s your purse!?")
"Reasons dark or pleasurable
"You go to ’here’ or come from ’there’ "?
And traveling by train, there’s
No escape, from questions like these,
The folk filled with curiosities
About their fellow passengers.
And after dinner become revelers,
Prone to drinking wine and liquors,
And talk into the wee wee hours...
Such was the state of Onegin’s mind,
His trip a long unpleasant time.


After several days like this,
Onegin makes a good decision:
Once the train arrives in Kiev,
He"ll call upon his friend Hnatysin,
A painter and a man of letters,
Known to set girls’ hearts a-flutter,
And known to turn wive’s husbands cuckolds,
Yet known in aristocratic households.
Onegin sends a message to him:
"I’m bored - and free! What are you doing?
"I’m here on a whim, and need a fling!
"I’m staying at the B**** Inn."
He taxis there, he bathes and dresses,
But still he feels unease and stresses.


Hnatysn’s thrilled his friend’s in town,
Immediately sets a plan in motion
To take Onegin on his rounds,
To cafes, restaurants, in rotation.
He first makes a reservation:
A favourite restaurant near the station;
Contacts all his friends and then
Tells them to meet exactly when
The sun goes down (at 5 pm),
At the bistro known as "Svend’s".
At four he’s off to meet Onegin:
"Has it been 2 years!!?" and they again
Embrace each other, quite forgetting
Past heartaches as the sun is setting.


And what of Tanya? Her fever breaks,
The Doctor quite exhausted smiles,
Prince N.’s awakened and he takes
Tatyana’s hand and all the while
Kitchen staff and maids and servants.
All of Tanya’s nurse attendants,
Exhausted, too,by anxiousness
Sigh, and pray and sign the cross,
While Tanya in her restful sleep
Is by her husband watched and guarded;
And reassured, begins to weep.
How many days how many nights
Did Tanya fight? Yes, more than seven; no less than eight.


And on the evening of the eighth,
She announces that she’s feeling better;
She says that she’s regained her strength,
Sits at her desk, with pen an paper.
The servants bring her teas and cakes,
And Tanya carefully makes
A list of all her bon vivants,
Inviting them si ils peuvent,
To travel and accompany
Her to the coast of Spain where sea
And pleasant clime will be
Helpful to her recovery.
She seals every note with wax
And sips her tea: "Time to relax..."


What thoughts race through the minds of those
Who’ve lost the one they held so dear
And now feel cold, beset by woes?
For Tatiana, the path was clear:
Onegin, in her heart’s beloved;
As for Prince N, she holds him above
All others, but for him no inner passions stir...
One thought, though, from which she won’t deter
Is that she must forget them both;
She must escape, find some solution,
A distraction from preoccupations.
Such pain adds years to pristine youth...
Adventure’s the way to escape such angst:
New and unique experience. be continued...

Oh God, Almighty Father

(Traditional Catholic Hymn, Anonymous, German, © 1948, Ralph Jusko Publications, Inc.)
(Harmony by Healey Willan)

Oh God, Almighty Father,
Creator of all things,
The heavens stand in wonder,
While earth Thy glory sings.

O most Holy Trinity,
Undivided Unity,
Holy God, Mighty God,
God immortal, be adored.

O Jesus, word incarnate,
Redeemer most adored,
All glory praise and honour
Be Thine, our sov’reign Lord.


O God, the Holy Spirit,
Who lives within our souls,
Send forth Thy light and lead us,
To our eternal goal.



(Woody Johnson, 2010)

All them grains of sand,
And all them drops of rain,
And all the hope I got,
Don’t amount to anything...

All the places that I’ve been,
And all them smiling faces,
Like some disappearing dream,
Don’t amount to anything...
Without you.

Without you... you.

Without you,
All them waves out on the water,
All those prayers and wishes for daughters and sons,
And all them stars up in the heavens,
They just don’t mean nothin’...
Without you.

Everyday is Valentine’s Day

(Woody Johnson, January 19, 2010)

There’s a time for buyin’ red roses,
And there’s a time for dancin’ ’til three,
And writin’ Romantic prose and poems,
And takin’ picnics out in the country.

There’s a time for sparkin’ ’n’ flirtin’,
Awkward moments when new lovers blush,
For courtin’ and doin’ things on a lark,
When there’s no earthly reason to rush.

Cards and long love letters,
And little things that mean so much,
Things that you don’t realize are gifts,
Like the softness of a lover’s touch.

I see it all the time now, sir,
And I have to look away,
Reminds me of everything that I lack: Yeah, everyday’s Valentine’s Day.

Everything just loses its meaning -
It’s like losin’ your only best friend:
The places you can never go back to,
That emptiness just never ends.

Every morsel I taste, each aroma,
Every colour and every sound,
All that candy and perfume around me,
All those people laughin’ out loud...

From first frost to spring’s final thawin’,
From high summer to when fall declines,
Reminds me reminds me reminds me,
Every day is Valentine’s.

Thelonious Sphere Monk

(G. Lahey, June 23, 2009)

He knew what he was doing,
With those discordant sounds;
That rhythm-a-ning thing:
Jazzbrea - th-ing,
Jazzthought/think - ing,
Jazzsoul - sou - nd - ing,
Jazzli - ife/liv - ing,
Jazzfoo - ood/eat - ing,
Jazzdrin - k/drink - ing,
Jazzlove, jazz-love, jazz love/lov - ing -
For Ruby,
For Nellie,
For The Baroness,
For Orrin Keepnews,
For T.S. and Boo Boo,
For his piano.

And watching him play, doesn’t it make you cry?

Threnody For Antonio Caldarella

(G. Lahey, April 29, 2009)

Maintenant les oiseaux chantent une chanson mélancolique .
Les fleurs ont perdu leur lumière intérieure.
L’air a perdu sa chaleur.
Les gens semblent solitaires.

Et le monde a changé.

Nous ne nous étions jamais rencontrés,
Nous n’avions jamais parlé ensemble,
Nous n’a jamais cassé du pain ensemble,
Mais je lui connaissais bien.
Son coeur était lourd, j’ai pensé.
Il eut aimé pour une fois dernière moment
et ensuite - une personne elle a écrit ’FINE’ dans cire rouge...
et a apposé un cachet à l’anéantissement de ton coeur

The birds sing a different song now.
The flowers have lost their inner light.
The air has lost its warmth.
The people look lonely.

The world has changed.

We had never met, never spoken together, never broke bread,
But I knew him well.
His heart was heavy, I thought.
You loved one last time, and then - ’END’ - embossed in red wax,
the seal affixed to the destruction of your heart.


(Woody Johnson)

Up on the highwire
Some of us are here for different reasons
Up on the highwire
Some of us are followin’ our dreams and
Up on the highwire
Some of us are tryin’ to change our luck,
And some of us just haven’t given up.

Up on the highwire
Some of us are tryin’ to have some fun
Up on the highwire
Some just got no where else to run
Up on the highwire
Some of us got a song to sing
And some are just tryin’ to make a livin’.

And down below there are some
Hopin’ that we’ll fail
And there’s some down below
Bitin’ their lip prayin’ to St Cecile
And down below there are some
Who can’t look and cover their eyes
And some have got the music inside ’em.

Up on the highwire
Some of us are livin’ just like gypsies
Up on the highwire
Some of us don’t own no keys
Up on the highwire
Some of us head back to a house and home
And some of us are just like rollin’ stones.

Up on the highwire
Oh God, bless and keep us please
Up on the highwire
Lord, some of us are sinners on bended knees
Up here on the highwire
Some of us are barely holdin’ on
And some of us are just here
Some of us are just here
Some of us are just here
Because of the song.

Up here on the highwire
Up here on the highwire
Up here on the highwire
Up here on the highwire

La Belle Dame Sans Souci

(G. Lahey, October 27, 2009)

I see them on the streets,
They walk by with their heads bowed down,
Their faces scowlin’,
And I wonder why they keep on goin’
And I think, "This will never happen to me"

I had an uncle,
He drank a lot, and he’d dance beside the sea,
Then sit in silent reverie,
Recalling what he’d left behind.
And I’d hope this would never happen to me.

Sittin’ with my friends,
Avec la belle dame sans souci,
In a basement like some kinda refugee,
You never thought it’d be games of chance,
That this would ever happen to me.


(Woody Johnson, 2006)

She’s a high-waisted girl,
Her belt pulled tight.
And ready to fight.
She’s a high-steppin’ long-legged gal,
Heeled high and steady,
With her hair pinned up,
And her lip like that.
A high-strung,
Two-fisted girl,
And ya think she just might,
'Cause she's an easy-dancin' girl,
Her make-up's just right,
And she’s slow grindin’ t'night;
And she's gonna look you in the eyes,
An’ hypnotize you.
She's a low ridin’
Don’t say much kind o’ gal.
Smooth calves
And waist grabbin’,
Hard livin’,
Loves lovin’ girl.

El Padre de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

(G. Lahey, August 30, 2009)

I said, “I guess my problem is one of faith,
I can’t believe that all it takes
Is the askin’,
And suddenly I’m all clean and shiny.
For what I done I’m gonna require
More’n the grace of God and heaven’s choir
And the blessin’ of the Trinity and Mother Mary, too.
‘Cause the only one who can absolve me,
Though she loved me true and so completely,
Has turned forever away
Turned away."

And the water rose and the light grew dark, I felt that weight
Upon my heart,
’Cause I knew
The askin’
Wasn’t gonna get a givin’.
‘Cause the pain and sufferin’ that I caused
The Devil woulda never done to Job,
And I’ll forever be a vagabond a-wanderin',
A vagabond, just another wanderer.

The Padre said: “You must forgive her unforgiving way
With all your heart, and one day,
Your soul will finally rest, my son.”
But I knew
That was gonna be a test
That Jesu in the desert would never have passed,
So I thanked him, and turned away,
I turned away.


(Woody Johnson)

I’ve been all around this world, sir,
East and west, and up and down.
With the witches in Navarre,
And the Zubaroa gypsies.

With the pilgrims doing penance,
El Camino de Santiago,
It was there that I confessed a sin,
God nor devil could abide.

Asked the strong-willed and the feeble,
The humble and the pride-filled,
"Is there mercy in this world,
For the harm that I have done?"

I sought blessed and condemned men,
"Is there redemption for not returning love?"
They scratched their beards and turned away,
And their eyes were filled with tears.

Their silence even louder,
Than the strongest condemnation.
The women, too, turned and closed their eyes,
Made a sign and whispered prayers.

Now I travel through this desert,
In sackcloth, and unwashed, sir,
Without a name, seeking Grace,
Alone, unforgiven.

The Sacred Heart of Second Chances

(Woody Johnson, October, 2009)

They just don’t come along that often.
But, sir, they sure do come along.
Don’t be afraid to look to heav’n,
Close your eyes and sing a thankful song.

’Cause they just don’t come along that often.
But, ma’am, they sure do come along.
And believe it or not, it’s Mother Mary,
That you can thank - ’cause she’s the one.

The Sacred Heart of Second Chances,
You can’t deny when the day is done.
The Sacred Heart of Second Chances,
The day, for sure, that bell’s unrung.

And when that day arrives - ’n’ it will, sir,
You have to seize it and you have to run.
And don’t look back - or you’ll regret it:
It’ll slip through your fingers ’fore day is done.
The Sacred Heart of Second Chances
Is watchin’ out for you, my son,
The Sacred Heart of Second Chances,
Calm after storm, sure enough’s gonna come.

So, don’t be afraid to look to the sky,
Then with a bended knee bow down.
The Sacred Heart of Second Chances
Will hear you askin’ an’ come around.

Gunnysack Riley

(Woody Johnson)

Ol’ Gunnysack Riley rollin’ along,
An ol’ guitar an’ a bag full o’ song.

Railroad bull hit ’im with his stick,
Ol’ Gunnysack’s gone, a-lickity-split.

Rolled him so hard his blood ran cold,
Rolled him so hard, the moon’s eyes closed.

Buried him out where the cock don’t crow,
Out where the farmer and the children don’t go.

Buried him out where the weeds ain't growin',
Too deep to hear Gabe'rls horn a-blowin'.

All’s they found was his ol’ guitar,
His ragged rucksack an’ his empty jar;

A half e’t’ apple in a brown paper bag
That he stole from an orchard, and wrapped in a rag;

An ol’ photograph an’ an address writ’ down,
Where his mother lives in Philly-town.

Ol’ Gunnysack Riley never hurt no one,
Now Gunnysack’s dead, buried an’ gone.

There’s people out there, though,
Still singin’ his songs,
"Ol’ Gunnysack Riley, rollin’ along..."

When Ol’ Sis’ Judy Pray

(James Edwin Campbell)

When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray,
De teahs come stealin’ down my cheek,
De voice ur God widin me speak’;
I see myse’f so po’ an’ weak,
Down on my knees de cross I seek,
When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray.

When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray,
De thun’ers ur Mount Sin-a-i
Comes rushin’ down f’um up on high–
De Debbil tu’n his back an’ fly
While sinnahs loud fur pa’don cry,
When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray.

When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray,
Ha’d sinnahs trimble in dey seat
Ter hyuh huh voice in sorro ’peat
(While all de chu’ch des sob an’ weep)
“O Shepa’d, dese, dy po’ los’ sheep!”
When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray.

When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray,
De whole house hit des rock an’ moan
Ter see huh teahs an’ hyuh huh groan;
Dar’s somepin’ in Sis’ Judy’s tone
Dat melt all ha’ts dough med ur stone
When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray.

When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray,
Salvation’s light comes pourin’ down–
Hit fill de chu’ch an’ all de town–
Why, angels’ robes go rustlin’ ’roun’,
An’ hebben on de Yurf am foun’,
When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray.

When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray,
My soul go sweepin’ up on wings,
An’ loud de chu’ch wid “Glory!” rings,
An’ wide de gates ur Jahsper swings
Twel you hyuh ha’ps wid golding strings,
When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray.

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