204 – Leaving Waukegan

Leaving Waukegan

God bless you Tom Waits
driving I-5 through East LA
gruffly telling the Muse
to fuck off, come back
when you’re not stuck
in rush hour traffic.

It’s probably apocryphal,
the kind of story ginned up
at cocktail parties and campfires
about a man wrestling an angel
down in the dirt, demanding
a name, limping the rest of his life
for the effort.

Probably you just pulled over
in the shoulder, flashing hazards,
scrambling for a pencil nub
and the back of your hand
divinely inspired to scribe
the melody of Jockey Full of Bourbon

like the rest of us, poor saps,
who swallowed the lie
that genius lives inside each one
like some sleek-suited Grendel
who’ll make the best of us
out our own blood.

Maybe that’s why you sound how you do.
Torn up inside, growling
at the little god clawing its way out
as you sing.

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