#292: Bob Dylan & the Band, "The Basement Tapes" (1975)

Tell the truth. You get tired. Once you did it like that, now you do it like this. If you can bear to do it at all. Maybe you never really heard what you thought. Maybe you’re only here because you forgot how to be anywhere.

This is when you get in a motorcycle accident.

Think about the legend. The one where your body’s brought low but your spirit abides. That kind of thing. Muck it up with the usual bunting. Rivers and bayonets. Foundlings and fire.

Practice silence. They’re going to say you’re burned, disfigured, dying. About at least that last bit, they’ll be right. They know. That’s the way it is. Mrs. Augustus is tired too, and she’s been dying longer than you.

Shelter in the past. Say things like, The old songs. Say it often. At parties. To people giving you the wooly eye trying to find your disfigurement. The old songs. You hear the old songs. Sort of croak it like, so they get the idea.

The idea is that you hear the old songs.

Blame it on the kennel master if you want to play dead. No one will question you if it sounds like a metaphor for war or something. Nobody’s going to accept that you’re turning your back on the endless road. Which is to say: have another kid.

Ah, butterfuck. That made it worse. This damned world. Even death can’t hold it still. You’ve already been the future, and you didn’t like what you made of it.

Ask the mirrors. Give yourself the wooly eye. Say you believe in the wisdom of reflection. The moon’s teeth are like a mirror. You probably said something like that once. Seems like your kind of thing.

You know this.

If someone asked you to name the most beautiful thing you’d ever seen, you’d answer with a joke.

It might be the only truth you practice, and it makes a man a liar. You found the formula. It’s all punchline. It’s you and it’s of you. Sometimes it’s Canadians. That’ll happen. Canadians will happen.

What do they know of fighting?

What do you?

The fight is held in bad hands, over bad bodies. The doctor won’t say it, but the mirrors might. Something about knaves at the crossroads. You can’t remember endings because you’ve never known one, so laugh into the wind.

Let’s calm down, Commodore.

God can’t shake a hand without breaking the bones. What does He know of bodies? The definition of Heaven is being without one, but your first memory was hearing a horse’s leg crack. You said that once and now you’re married to that truth.

Never go home.

Hang out underground. But in a normal way. You’re not dying. You’re dying. Burying yourself is the only way to be sure. Don’t tell anyone. Tell Canadians. Not anyone you love.

Do you love anyone? You love the old songs. A curse isn’t a curse unless you sing it. Saw that on a placemat once. The waitress says it’s not that way for her but it might be for you.

Befriend a wolf.

Or if not a single wolf then every dog whose howl holds up the night. Put the math to work for you this time. Call up the money man and see where it stands. It’s never where you think. Once you own one dog every dog owns you. That one’s true.

The old truth.

Fuck Paul Simon.

Keep it to yourself. Maybe tell Levon Helm. He’s cool. You share a sickness. Everyone’s got one. You’ve got two. Time and knowledge. The old sickness. And eczema. Three then. You’ve been worse than scalded.

Like what it came to up there. Alone together, throwing motorcycles at the trees. You couldn’t believe the end times could end anything. You knew guys named Solomon the Earl and Judah Pete. You tried most things twice, but you didn’t change once.

Sing about it. Sing about everything. Do it alone. Do it in bed. Don’t stop. You tried stopping. It didn’t work. Promise you’ll meet again. Count the miles. Make the number so big it might be God. Make the past so gone you come round to it again.

A decade gone, and you have to live it over. Every lie you’ve ever spoke you speak again only this time you have to believe it. Whiskey in a teacup, nothing ever gets so dark. You rise from the Earth but the sky doesn’t invite you higher. Should have never learned to walk if there was only one way to stop. The horse knew that. Ask again.

The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen was a man go blind.

That’s the punchline.

—Adam Peterson