THE COWBOY’S LAMENT

As with other elements of the BELLIGERENT PIANO story (as with ongoing audio/audio-visual/multimedia explorations for stories in FOLKTALES), I’m experimenting with various ways in which the characters from the tale might be expanded or elaborated upon through the use of mediums other than comics proper (please see MTH OF JACK RADIO HOUR posts previously included in the BELLIGERENT PIANO category of this blog). Below is a very rough, first shot recording elaborating on the character of  “the Cowboy”, who as of yet remains nameless (and possibly will always remain so, depending how far I want to push the homage to Eastwood and Sergio Leone). I recently read this piece live at NOIR AT THE BAR (just last night, in fact), so I quickly decided to record it, as well. I’m sure Frank Oros and I will refine, collaborate on it, and very possibly turn it into something new altogether….but I’m excited by this rough recording, so I want to share it with you. Think of it as an inside glimpse into the process of expanding nuanced layers of a character and the conceptual cross-pollination from one medium to another. Incidentally, if you’re currently following the BELLIGERENT PIANO weekly strip, you’ll notice that this piece is an elaboration on exactly what is happening in that narrative.  Although neither are exactly the same, they compliment one another and occupy the same space in time. Below are both the recording and the original written word text:

cowboy’s lament_take 2

THE COWBOY’S LAMENT

The sweaty toad is crying now;

the cowboy can hear his fragile,

effeminate sobs rising up from under

the barrel of his Smith & Wesson M&P

Victory Model –

the officer’s revolver Smith & Wesson

manufactured to commemorate the Allied

victory over the Nazis and the Japs

as yesterday’s war came to its

abysmal close.

Meanwhile, the toad, down on his knees,

hands clasped behind his back, begins to

press his tongue gingerly to the tip of the

cowboy’s brand new snake skin boots.

“Now I want you to clean the sterling toe

of my boot,” the cowboy instructed,

“I want you to clean it with yer tongue.”

The cowboy’s boots were of the elaborately

decked out Cadillac variety: A beautifully

handcrafted mix of embossed and etched

sterling, embroidered leather, snakeskin,

and hubris.

…the toad is sweating profusely,

sniffing back the tears.

Some people secretly wish to be

humiliated, and there’s always

somebody willing to accommodate.

People of opposite-but-similar needs

have an uncanny way of finding each other

in this windblown life.

…but the cowboy isn’t thinking about that;

the whimpering fearful groans of the

grown man on his knees before him might

just as well have been a radio show playing

crackly from another room.

No, the cowboy is thinking about

something else entirely…

He’s thinking about Vera,

the accordion player,

the songbird

who he saw earlier that night.

….He’s thinking about her sweet tune,

the one filled with the words he didn’t understand,

but somehow it didn’t matter.

…He’s trying to think of whom she reminds him of.

Gene Tierney? Jane Greer? Lauren Bacall?

He knew all of these women intimately:

He was an avid moviegoer;

didn’t matter what the picture was about.

Anyway maybe it was Veronica Lake,

although she doesn’t particularly look like her.

No, it was something else –

something likeable

and vulnerable

and illusive,

something otherworldly –

something he didn’t have the tongue

to articulate.

He’s thinking about Corrina,

that girl he’d known in Fayette,

who he’d stop in to see from time to time back then;

that precious porcelain Jane who finally off’d herself

without ever leaving a note.

His mind stretches like an urban weed

all that distance without losing

a single willowed detail.

He’s thinking about life before the war;

about those dusty tumbleweed winds;

those raven clouds cascading

like thunderstorm ghosts

above the flattened wastelands,

blotting out the sun over

Dodge City in 1935…

the year Kansas was swallowed

by the Apocalypse

and the Wizard of Oz

and suffering and suffering and suffering…

He’s thinking about the black plumes of soot

covering the withered and barren fields

that once had prospered…

those black plumes of soot

that filled the depressed lungs

of leathered old men

with the black remains

of once-fertile topsoil.

He remembers the sting of that dirt

carried by the violent, determined wind;

he remembers it ripping at his sweaty skin

like pellet-like shards of icy-hot glass

as it blew westward toward the mountains,

taking with it histories

and tightly-bound families and legends;

folktales, businesses, towns, livestock,

hopes, dreams.

…and he could’ve sworn he’d felt the spirits

of those families who’d perished

in those rolling billows of black dust

blowing right through his chest,

tattering his clothes,

warning him that it was time to press on,

catch-out, beat it out of town.

He knew it was time to leave;

it was time to find something

else to do to earn his keep.

He was a true son of the cracked earth

and busted-down fallen weathervanes.

The prodigal son of the prairies

and gold fields and farmhouse clotheslines.

But all of that was gone now.

He remembers the dead cattle carcasses,

tents of bone covered in empty hides;

he remembers the sign on the fence posts

that read:

CONGRESS CREATED

THE DUSTBOWL.

And without knowing it, he’d left himself there,

left himself for dead.

Those were the days of a different chapter in his life;

now he was something else,

something that he himself was afraid of.

Because something important of himself was buried

beneath that dust or had blown

like flakes of gold into an oblivion

of the ever-changing, eternal earth.

…. He’s thinking about the suit he just bought

with the money he’d earned,

and how hard it had been to find a clothing shop

that sold suits in the western fashion.

He’s thinking about his new bolo tie –

the one with the bull’s head dead embossed into it

like a silver coin;

the one he bought instead of

the Gene Autry ribbon variety.

Gene Autry, he thought, had always been

a little too flamboyant in his opinion,

but he liked Autry’s taste in two-tone shirts

and elaborately embroidered boots.

After all, even cowboys have a sense of fashion.

And every western man, like any other man,

needs at least one sharp Saturday night

honky-tonk suit.

…He’s thinking about peace and quiet;

about the way things sometimes are.

…he’d had enough of idiots and sinners;

he’d had enough of himself.

He’s thinking about peace and quiet

and the warmth of a woman’s arms.

Not just any woman’s arms:

A woman of poetry,

a woman of the earth and salt

and incomprehensible words.

Someone musical.

Someone who didn’t talk too much.

He’s thinking of all the weary miles

between himself and his salvation.

…. He’d had it bad and he’d had it good;

he’d been rich and poor:

Now he was just trying to get to Heaven

before they closed the door.

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