#425: Gram Parsons, "Grievous Angel" (1974)

I.

That I loved him there is no question, I can say that now that he is gone. But to love a lost man who is living is too much to really know about oneself although I always knew from the beginning the way it would go and I won’t say I chose it, or ever accepted it, though I saw it for what it was, saw it with prism-like eyes that reflected the world to me in perfect sorrowful clarity, separating one truth from another though I often didn’t know what to do with the many and separate truths and I would wipe my mind with the blue of sky, wipe it clean of words or knowing (though the heart is always knowing and holding so much more than the mind) and how can we see and all and still choose the way we do, what is the knowing for?—I am not sure I can tell you that part or that we can choose who to love, or choose not to love a person because of any knowings or diamond sight, and though it hurt I loved him from the first moment my prism eyes held his light—I saw and knew and the light shattered inside me, knowing.

Knowing that it was a slanted light and some men cannot be saved from their private sadnesses and women who think otherwise are fools and will spend their lives chasing phantoms. Oh, I was a fool.

  Illustration by Lena Moses-Schmitt

Illustration by Lena Moses-Schmitt

II.

What I saw and see with my prism eyes is the grievousness of angels and that the weight is too much for some and that angels do not really have wings. What I saw with my eyes were his eyes and some people are left too alone and that is why they sing so beautifully. And some angels follow the way of their fathers and there was his daddy Coondog who shot himself when Gram was twelve, and there was his mother Avis who drank herself to death and some angels have mothers who are sad and some never get past all the grief. What I heard was his voice, and it was beautiful and it was saying why are we all so alone here.

III.

He was singing from a great sad tender country heart and he had seen the sadness of great lonesome-road America, seen it in the truck stops under fluorescent lights and the gas pumps with the vast rumbling highway-night stretching out beyond and in the diners with lonely spoons clanking stirring packs of white sugar into lonely-clanking cups of black coffee, steaming, and in the sweet desperate faces of waitresses and the eggs cracked onto skillets, the tossed shells, and in the grease traps out back, in the brick-walled train stations in the creases of slacks and the shine on the toes of shoes, in the ticking-second clocks on the walls and in the starched collars and pursed lips of men like his father.

He saw it in the barrooms, sticky residues of stale beer on countertops and in the lines around the eyes of men drinking whiskies, in the long columns of ash on the ends of cigarettes and in the Saturday night Main Street neons, in the pool halls and the shoulders hunching over card tables in casinos, in the Indians slouched on the sides of roads.

He saw it in the shiny Buicks and on the palm-tree boulevards of sunny Florida and in the chrome streets of Manhattan in the sparkle and sharp sunlight of high-rise windows and in vast shining Los Angeles and he wasn’t sure where to go, only that the roads of America tell a man to go, go anywhere so long as you’re going, you can’t stay here you have to move and fast and where is there to go anymore for a sad tender country-heart man without a father but on and on under the bright lights until gone until down and out in some far-off place at the end of some road, like Joshua Tree, the place he would go, where at night the air got clear and one could hear one’s own breathing in the cold and the stars burning above and see motionless black silhouettes of ancient spiny trees and in the rocks one could touch the dust of aeons and all was hushed there—there, there—that is where he is now, his heart still burning with lost cosmic end-of-the-road America.

  Illustration by Lena Moses-Schmitt

Illustration by Lena Moses-Schmitt

IV.

He saw it all with his own tear-bucket coal-black eyes turned upside-down, in fact he saw too much and took anything to blur his vision and in the bright lights he couldn’t see a thing and he sang with eyes closed and poured it out and I saw him there in the lights and I loved him but it wasn’t enough it isn’t enough to open his eyes and I swear I tried to love him.

He saw mirages like oases from which he couldn’t drink and the golden fields that lay between those bright-light places went by too fast, like dreams out of the plate glass train windows just golden dreams and everyone passing through and what rest and where to lay oneself down in what fields on a golden afternoon in sad America and what salvation and his eyes blurred with tears and his eyes closed endlessly.

V.

I watched the moon come up tonight and thought of how lonely his body burning in the desert out there like he asked for, casket filled with gasoline, how lonely the flames that licked at the desert sky, and how final, and at death it is just me and you, moon, just the cold fire of the moon. I thought that and I am not sure if I said it too, as I have been in the habit of saying my private thoughts aloud, like scripture, repeating them as if in prayer, so I said it is just me and you now, moon, and I am not sure if there is anything beyond this small comfort for me now and clouds moved across the moon.

—Holly Haworth