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The Poetry of Josh Ritter 1976-

Wings

At night we crossed the border following a Black robe
to the edge of the reservation—to Cataldo Mission
where the saints and all the martyrs look down on dying converts
what makes the water holy she says is that that it’s the closest thing to rain
I stole a mule from Anthony—I helped Anne up upon it
and we rode to Coeur d’Alene—through Harrison and Wallace
they were blasting out the tunnels—making way for the light of learning
when Jesus comes a’calling she said he’s coming round the mountain on a train
it’s my home—last night I dreamt that I grew wings
I found a place where they could hear me when I sing
we floated on to Hanford on a lumber boat up river
past the fisheries and the milltowns like a stretch of future graveyards
she was driven to distraction—said I wonder what will happen
when they find out they’re mistaken and the land is too changed to ever change
we waded through the marketplace—someone’s ship had come in
there was silver and begonias—dynamite and cattle
there were hearts as big as apples and apples in the shape of Mary’s heart
I said inside this gilded cage a songbird always looks so plain
it’s my home—last night I dreamt that I grew wings
I found a place where they could hear me when I sing.
and so they came with cameras—breaking through the morning mist
press and businessmen—tycoons—Episcopal philanthropists
lost in their appraisal of the body of a woman
but all we saw were lowlands—clouds clung to mountains without strings
and at last we saw some people huddled up against
the rain that was descending like railroad spikes and hammers
they were headed for the border—walking and then running
then they were gone into the fog but Anne said underneath their jackets she saw wings

 

Commentary to follow

 

Girl in the War


Peter said to Paul you know all those words we wrote Are just the rules of the game and the rules are the first to go But now talking to God is Laurel begging Hardy for a gun I got a girl in the war man I wonder what it is we done

Paul said to Peter you got to rock yourself a little harder Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire But I got a girl in the war Paul the only thing I know to do Is turn up the music and pray that she makes it through

Because the keys to the Kingdom got lost inside the Kingdom And the angels fly around in there but we canąt see them I got a girl in the war Paul I know that they can here me yell If they canąt find a way to help her they can go to Hell If they canąt find a way to help her they can go to Hell

Paul said to Peter you got to rock yourself a little harder Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire But I got a girl in the war Paul her eyes are like champagne They sparkle bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain They sparkle bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain They sparkle bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain