Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Red River Shaman

The shamed man required a shaman. It was 3 past four, the darkest hour four, the darkest hour right before the hour that is right before the dawn four. The bottles were done, he killed each one and he could no longer stay. The shamed man headed back out on to Hern Street ready for his bed. The lights were dim and all that could be heard were the drones of air conditioners air conditioning the bungalows down along Ol’ Hern.

The woman there was nice enough, a trustworthy smile and birthing hips. The shamed man and her made small talk by the upright nobody played. She was from Mechanicsville, had a good paying job and no loose ends. It was all right place, right time but the shamed man required a shaman.

Hern went on forever, already passed a couple of shortcuts, but shortcuts were not his way. A hooded figure approached from the west on a cross street.

Hooded figure stopped in his tracks

“Are you the shaman?” the shamed man asked.

“Tonight’s the night.” The hooded figure said before continuing on. The shamed man followed, redemption seemed nigh.

Hern disappeared over the shamed man’s shoulders as the crossway narrowed. The hooded figure stopped at the base of a flight of stairs leading to a second story loft. Mr. Tambourine Man was there; jingle jangle with his back arched against the century old brick.

How could everything about someone say “follow me?” The shamed man wondered in awe of the shaman. They ascended the stairs to the loft where the door was flung open. Emptiness, white washed walls, nothing but two old 40’s era dining room chairs, a vice grip with a percolator on top and a birth naked 40 watt bulb overhead. The shaman sat across the room. From his sweatshirt he slipped out a compact disc, a compact disc of all things.

“This is the shaman.” The shamed man thought.

Beneath the shaman’s feet in the grayness of the shadow of the chair was an old hand held stereo, the kind those damn kids carried down the street powered by 47 D cell batteries.

The shamed man bit down hard on the inside of his cheek for alertness, this could not be missed.

The disc spun, the shaman kept his head angled to the floor, the shamed man glared off into the rolling shadows cast around the room from the 40-watt.

Some of us turn off the lights and we live
In the moonlight shooting by
Some of us scare ourselves to death in the dark
To be where the angels fly
Pretty maids all in a row lined up
Outside my cabin door
I’ve never wanted any of them wanting me
‘Cept the girl from the Red River shore

The shaman’s medicine was for the healing game. The song coming from the compact disc wrapped its arms around the shamed man and he trembled in fear. The voice singing was from before the flood and after the hard rain. It wasn’t from on high, but close enough to know of those things.

Well, I sat by her side and for a while I tried
To make that girl my wife
She gave me her best advice and she said
“Go home and lead a quiet life.”
Well, I’ve been to the east and I’ve been to the west
And I’ve been out where the black winds roar
Somehow, though, I never did get that far
With the girl from the Red River shore

The shaman produced an aluminum can from his sweatshirt; he rolled it over slowly across the uneven concrete floor. An unrecognized label spun, exposing itself upon each rotation. The shamed man scooped it up, popped the top, and took a drink.

Well, I knew when I first laid eyes on her
I could never be free
One look at her and I knew right away
She should always be with me
Well, the dream dried up a long time ago
Don’t know where it is anymore
True to life, true to me
Was the girl from the Red River shore

Something powerful was happening; the 40-watt’s illumination unexpectedly brightened nearly exposing the face of the shaman then went out completely. The door to the loft remained open but no breeze or outside sound entered.

Now I’m wearing the cloak of misery
And I’ve tasted jilted love
And the frozen smile upon my face
Fits me like a glove
But I can’t escape from the memory
Of the one that I’ll always adore
All those nights when I lay in the arms
Of the girl from the Red River shore

A cloak of misery, nights layed in the arms. The shamed man’s life came to him, scenes from the past and the future like a strobe. How had he never heard this? How had everyone not heard this?

Well, we’re living in the shadows of a fading past
Trapped in the fires of time
I’ve tried not to ever hurt anybody
And to stay out of a life of crime
And when it’s all been said and done
I never did know the score
One more day is another day away
From the girl from the Red River shore.

Well, I’m a stranger here in a strange land
But I know this is where I belong
I’ll ramble and gamble for the one I love
And the hills will give me a song
Though nothing looks familiar to me
I know I’ve stayed here before
Once, a thousand nights ago
With the girl from the Red River shore

The shaman rose from his chair and left the room, left the shamed man to his own devices. The shamed man did not notice for time had slipped out of mind as the things of this world faded.

Well, I went back to see about it once
Went back to straighten it out
Everybody that I talked to had seen us there
Said they didn’t know who I was talking about
Well, the sun went down on me a long time ago
I’ve had to fall back from the door
I wish I could have spent every hour of my life
With the girl from the Red River shore

The shamed man openly wept, this composer had felt too much, had stayed in Mississippi a day too long, had been at the bottom of a world full of lies, was 40 miles out of town and cold irons bound, was left standing in the doorway crying, was trying to get to heaven before they close the door, was strolling the lonely grave yard of his mind.

Now, I’ve heard of a guy who lived a long time ago
A man full of sorrow and strife
Whenever someone around him died and was dead
He knew how to bring ‘em on back to life
Well, I don’t know what kind of language he used
Or if they do that kind of thing anymore
Sometimes I think nobody ever saw me here at all
‘Cept the girl from the Red River shore.

The disc stopped spinning. The shamed man was the shamed man no more, call him the lone pilgrim and the lone pilgrim had heard enough to have the kindred and relative laid at his feet a thousand times over. The shitty boom box had a repeat button. Repeat – press – play. Lone pilgrim finished his beer and remained seated until he peacefully slept there alone.


  1. Shaman to shaman, dust to dust, over and out, go out live a simple life, as the shaman heads for home once more, wha that was close, thank god for that 40 watt bulb at four for forth floor

  2. Thanks. That was the best Bob Dylan video I've never seen.