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Song of the Rail

From when I dropped out of Hunter College through my 20s I spent a lot of time in the neighborhood where I was born near Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The rest of the Bronx called it The Green since we were right next to a golf course but we called it The Rail, since we would all sit on the railing that ran up and down the street. It was the sixties and drugs were rampant but for me it was mostly about a sense of despair that my life wouldn’t start until I got out of there. There is a reference to Hickey in the song; that’s the Hickey in Ice Man Cometh.

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Song of the Rail

I certainly could have entertained

Bareback riding, hashesh‑smoking prostitutes who end up

Choking on the attitudes I left unexplained

But they talked of distances, insisting that I leave

While they remain

Untampered with to get home safe and sound

But I just sneered, the gallery cheered

My alter ego reappeared

And I got set to fly

Until I thought about the ground

Where I’m securely bound

There, laughing at my window in the rain

An old friend from God knows when

Just speaks to ask where he can send

A cake with a file for to cut through my chains

To him it’s a prison to be anywhere

About which he complains

And so I thought I’d hear what he put down

He analyzed my life until

I jumped up on my window sill

And I got set to fly

Until I thought about the ground

Where I’m securely bound

There’s a spot somewhere behind a set of walls

Where lovers come and salesmen drum

And I sit glum with coke and rum

And hum (and strum) “Sweet Blindness”

Thought I know it’s all a stall

For now I’m pleased by distances

Restricted as they are by one and all

I get amused and then the laughs abound

Enemies join arm in arm

Some Hickey leads them in a psalm

And I get set to fly

At least my soul will not be found

Where I remain securely bound.