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1. The Peripatetic Song: One Good Tune Leads to Another

As frequent visitors here know, music holds an important place in my creative life. I’m a listener. I don’t play, can’t carry a tune, but I’m fairly sure I loved songs long before I loved books, and the words of songs touched me in a such a way that I wanted to pick up a pen to face (and fill) a blank page of my own.

Today I’m inspired by the first song on the new Iron & Wine disk, Kiss Each Other Clean.

Sam Beam, AKA, Iron & Wine.

The song, “Walking Far from Home,” instantly reminded me of the imagery in the apocalyptic Dylan tune, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” I enjoy it when writers trod familiar ground, mine traditional forms, like tourists visiting the same old plots, where the structural restrictions require the artist to dig deeper for his reward.

Both songwriters in this case, Sam Beam and Bob Dylan, were working within what I’ll call (for lack of a more accurate term), The Peripatetic Structure. Or more colloquially, The Where You Been? Song. Simply: the narrator goes out walking and encounters a world that is broken, wounded. I went out and saw this and this and this and that. But the telling of the journey becomes something far more than a laundry list of observations. In the hands of a craftsman, the observed, exterior reality functions as a reflection of an interior (spiritual) state, where the objective and subjective meet in hallucinogenic clarity, where nothing and everything is real.

Here’s Sam Beam:

WALKING FAR FROM HOME

I was walking far from home
Where the names were not burned along the wall
Saw a building high as heaven
But the door was so small, door was so small

I saw rain clouds, little babies
And a bridge that had tumbled to the ground
I saw sinners making music
And I dreamt of that sound, dreamt of that sound

I was walking far from home
But I carried your letters all the while
I saw lovers in a window
Whisper “want me like time, want me like time”

I saw sickness bloom in fruit trees
I saw blood and a bit of it was mine
I saw children in a river
But their lips were still dry, lips were still dry

I was walking far from home
And I found your face mingled in the crowd
Saw a boat full of believers
Sail off talking too loud, talking too loud

I saw sunlight on the water
Saw a bird fall like a hammer from the sky
An old woman on the speed train
She was closing her eyes, closing her eyes

I saw flowers on a hillside
And a millionaire pissing on the lawn
Saw a prisoner take a pistol
And say “join me in song, join me song”

Saw a car crash in the country
Where the prayers run like weeds along the road
I saw strangers stealing kisses
Leaving only their clothes, only their clothes

Saw a white dog chase its tail
And a pair of hearts carved into a stone
I saw kindness and an angel
Crying take me back home, take me back home

Saw a highway, saw an ocean
I saw widows in the temple to the Lord
Naked dancers in the city
How they spoke for us all, sp

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