When u go where u ought not be, it makes two places ur not suppose to be, and knowing where ur going is key, but first u gotta know who u are, which is hard, at least for it is for me.
Seeing such a dynamic and well seasoned cat as Bryonn Bain perform live and in living color, his 30 years of experience at writing and performing poetry was clear. Making the meager 5 years I’d been at it seem like nothing. Though I am encouraged by the places those nothing of a five years have already sent me, to do what I’ve done and to say what I did, I am more so encouraged by where and what my visions tell me is in store for me with this thing with words I have.
I am inspired when I look out at this life and its people. Artistically. Emotionally. A wise man once told me signs and symbols are for the conscious mind. For me, I see those signs and symbols taking on the forms of the people who find their way into our lives, as we into theirs. Life uses those ppl to direct us, move us, inspire us, effect us, teach us more about whatever it is that is our ‘thing’. Whether it be words like me, or music, art, dance, sports, buisness, child raising, politics or jus merely being who u are. In Bryonn’s case, I believe life brought him into this prison as a visitor to show me how deep the rabbit hole really goes when it comes to poetry.
Bryonn’s energy, his use of different voices to depict various characters of a story he told was closer to a theatrical rendition of a one man broadway show, more then it was what I had had in mind of what a poetry performance was or cud be. His way on stage created new imagery for me, new possibilities, waiting on me to find a way to express them, give them a voice.
Then along came this documentary I caught on a PBS channel illustrating the life and times of Jimi Hendrix. I knew who Jimi was, jus like 85% of the population did, but I wasn’t a fan of his music. I mean, I respected him for who ppl say he was and what they say he did, but I didn’t really know ne thing about him. Until I seen this documentary. I still don’t dig his music, I jus saying, I have a certain sound I’m into, and he doesn’t have it, I’m more of The Weeknd type, but damn did I dig Jimi’s flair for style, the way he talked and saw things, who he was as jus another cool dude to kick it with.
What connected me the most to Jimi was his interview on The Dick Cavett show, where he spoke on how uncomfortable he was when ppl complimented him, and how he felt he didn’t deserve it. I felt exactly the same way. I stayed wondering why I had those feelings and why I cudnt come up with an sufficient answer for them. Jimi was the first person ever I’d heard talk about such feelings out loud and to be honest it both shocked and relieved me. I was beginning to think sum thing was wrong with me.
Prior to seeing Jimi’s interview, I thought my feelings of undeservedness arose out of my shame. Shame of knowing how corrupt I part of my life style was, my drug use, card playing and over all hustlers mentality. How conflicting I felt it all was in view of where my heart lay spiritually. The ppl who were complimenting me cudnt see those corrupt parts, and if they cud, they probably wudnt be praising me.
I thought perhaps it was a chemical imbalance in the brain Jimi and I shared, a personality complex, or sum sort of emotional damage in separate but shared experiences? Sum thing we both felt ashamed about for our own reasons? Or maybe it was more the personal experiences within self that only self knows about and keeps secret.
I jus know I felt two faced, like I was frauding ppl. I never told or spoke of those feelings outside my own mind, except maybe a line or two hidden in my poetry. I wanted so badly to live an honest and peaceful life, a Godly life and punished myself for not being man enough to do so. Felt like I was always trying to run away from myself, using the drugs, the women, the hustle to distract me from the struggle of my self identity.
Finding out who we are is hard, at least it is for me. Part of me feels like its constantly on the move, changing, adapting to what is happening around me, within me. While a part of me feels like it never has changed from that cute little kid who ppl had trouble identifying the nationality of. Living under my Moms roof, where my step Dads had two German Shepards running around the smallest of back yards, sleeping in the same room my older Sister did before she moved out at18. Her window over looked those dogs, those trees, those neighbors houses, sum of which I visited almost everyday. Jus a few blocks over from those rail road tracks, having travelling trains I knew not where they were going, but knew they were steady rolling, steady making that soothing sound which put this cute kid to sleep when his mind wudnt turn off. The same soothing sounds which when heard today, wherever I am, brings me back to those nights so long ago, nights bringing with them what it feels like to be a kid again. A kid who wud grow up to commit murder on those same tracks which once acted as his lullaby, but got reshaped into crosses that I now bare.
Memories brought back after seeing Jimi, a man I didn’t realize I wud see so much of myself in. As he sat in a chair, on my TV screen, solo, except for his acoustic guitar, while he talked instead of sung, these sad lyrics, about a train station. Where I imagined ppl wud go to try and run away from their regrets, run away from themselves, run away from past mistakes they wish they cud change, but can’t. Trying to out run the memory of their old selves, using an old train, so… I wrote this poem.
“In the distance
there’s a whistle,
blowing off the frustrations
of an old rusty train
pulling into the run down of a station,
from carrying the baggage
of unappreciative passengers
who sag in their own disdain,
and its plainly worn
in the language of their aura’s
like form fitting rainbows with no color’s
they don’t even recognize ea other,
and no welcomes it
only complains its taken the old train so long to arrive
doesn’t it know we are trying to run away from our lives
its why we’ve come to a place made famous for its goodbyes,
The Train Station.
where there’s no gift or coffee shops
jus a newspaper stand to my left
with two rusty ass benches out front
where sits Pops
an old black guitarist
with a titled Fedora,
and a beard he’s had for more then a few days,
there sets his guitar case
open to catch whatever change is thrown his way
its slim pickings
cos all I see is 3 quarters and 6 nickles
reminding me of jus how far distance is
to the crackling of the PA system
announcing its 1:05 departure time
and its jus me,
standing in a one man line
with one hand halfway hanging out the pocket of my pants
carrying a different kind of case
hoping to catch a different kind of change,
when the soul of his guitar
plays my attention
back to those benches
where still sits Pops,
strumming his strings
talks rather then sings
about the responsibilities of “shitting”.
He says, “how long u think u can run from ur shit?”
And I’m like, “what? u talking to me?”
He’s like, “yea I’m talking to u, there’s no one else around Son,
and its clear to me that ur running from sum thing!”
My silence confirms it
even tho he’s already sensed it
so I jus keep quiet and listen
He says, “u see kid,
that’s jus the way it is
but sum times we make it
we catch a bad case of the runs, u know, run from this, run from that
run away from the shit u made and never look back.”
and I’m thinking…
who in the hell is this cat,
talking to me like that,
he don’t even know me.
And Pops’ says, ” I know I don’t! But what I do know
is when u go
where u ought not be,
that makes two places ur not suppose to be!”
Right then and there this friendly feminine energy
starts waving for me to come on
she’s the conductor calling all aboard
its time to move forward,
but I can’t.
I’m stuck, with hands on hips,
an internal episode of what wud u do
so I turn back to old school cat
but he’s gone
so are the benches and the guitar
there’s no change
only the whispering distance
not even a train
its jus this day dream
where my character defects
become living figments
of my imagination
working out my problems
while we hang…..
at The Train Station.
My crew calls this one “The Train Station” and I can see why, so I don’t correct them or explain how its true and original name is “Jimi Hendrix”. A title given it which surprisingly wasn’t complicated at all for me, in fact, was quite easy, and might I add, appropriate.
As my abel companion and I sum times talk on the phone and I hear the whistle of a train thru the receiver, I say, “I hear Jimi Hendricks in the back ground!”
Whether its in the back ground of a phone call or out this prison window from jus right over there, sum where, the sound of Jimi has the same effect it always did when I was a kid.
Out of all the poem’s Ive written, this is Amy’s favorite. I’m sure she has her reasons, but mostly I think its cos she knows what I know about it. She once wrote to me when I was planning to perform this poem for an event in here. She said the poem wud “remain unexposed unless I choose the audience worthy.” What she means by that is if I choose to explain certain meanings about why I wrote certain lines the way I did in the poem. So, for the first time, I do so here, for her, and for u who read this.
The 3 quarters and 6 nickles inside Pops’ open guitar case, when added up, equals $1.05, which is how many yrs the court sentenced me to, 105 to life. “cos all I see is 3 quarters 6 nickles”, when u got this much time, its so big, its hard to see ne thing else. It is a time so far off, “it reminds me how far distance is, half listening to the PA system announcing its1:05 departure time” cos that when they try and tell me I can leave here, so I wait, impatiently, “cos its jus me, standing in a one man line”, not cos I received the longest sentence handed out in my counties history, but cos of the deep loneliness I feel even in a train station full of ppl.
Pops’ is looking for sum change in the form of little coins, whereas I’m “looking for a different kinda change, cos I’m carrying a different kind of case” then the one carrying his guitar. Wishing sum change was as easy to get as it was as sum one walking by and tossing it to me.
The rest, I hope, is self explanatory.
Thanks for listening.
Jason B. Thompson
Categories: Jason Thompson