I've always been a busker
my songs always came from the street
they smelled of gasoline and tar
A gaunt troubadour, a fellow traveller
with an empty stomach to sing
in Paris, following the fire eater
through endless streets of cafes
A very hard act to follow
even for Mr.Tambourine Man
Just a few miserable francs
not enough to even get drunk on
not a trifle to eat nor a tower to ascend

Many years ago in Montreal
someone left me a hundred dollar bill
in my guitar case
I was able to drink for three days
I was known throughout the tavern
as the Rockefeller of buskers
the man who made Diego Rivera
and all those communist murals
throughout New York

I opened several banks and made
many loans of beer to my friends
before I was broke again, this time
in Denmark, where my fingers bled
from playing so hard
I thought I had conjured everything
that was rotten there
I made quite a few kroner
and a piece of birthday cake
I imagined Clive Davis applauded
with every American dollar through the night

At Frankfurt Station
I played long enough for a ticket south
I played with two broken strings
My harmonicas were as dry
as the black and white bones
that appeared throughout the night and fog
As the blood banners came close to Munich
By the ruins of the Brown House
I sat down and vomited
Underneath the lantern by the barrack gate
I played the chords to Lily Marlene
but no one even pretended to be listening
not even the troupe of Russian trombone players
who played the International down the street

I played and I played until my fingers
came off one day
Inside the guitar case, they grew like trees
and through a northerly wind
They were a soothing sound
of ambient noises that became
anti-stress tapes for the workplace
Fortunes were made by everyone but me
Mounds of clay, they harden now
as they cover the skin of my shoulders
Forever I'm afraid, I am a busker
forever I'm afraid, I am a busker

return to list of all poems