Poem by Robert Gibson "Chasing Townes"
As posted to the about-townes mail list
Tue, 11 Mar 1997 13:21:09 -0800
"Robert W. Gibson"
Just got back in cyberspace after a month-long computer crisis. The
Townes web page looks GREAT. I especially like the articles section.
It's so sad to see that someone of Townes' genius has to die before most
folks begin to take notice. A case in point - I used to frequent Cactus
records in Houston regularly when I made the trip every month or so.
They would routinely stock two, three, or maybe four Van Zandt releases,
with one or two copies of each. Last month I went and they had two
racks full and two releases (the Rear View Mirror re-release and No
Deeper Blue) available for immediate listening on the wall. Too little
too late to help the man out, but I suppose it's good for the family.
Anyway, I'm a writer (comic books, screenplays and poetry) by trade and
Townes was a big influence. At the end of this e-mail, I've included
something I started a long while ago and finished soon after learning of
his death. I had to rework the ending to make it a bit more uplifting.
It originally started as a lark. Then it turned into a more personal
piece, mourning the fact that I never actually got to MEET the man. But
I decided he deserved better...
Anyway, it goes out to all those folks who keep putting off things
until, well, you know how it goes... You can do whatever you wish with
I had no IDEA how many other fans there were until I got back online. I
just started getting the mail list and it's by far the largest of the
ones I subscribe to.
Continued luck with the page...
Threw my flowers west on 90,
Before I crossed that Lone Star line,
Hands dancing across the AM dial,
Spied a ragged man with a ragged sign,
Reading, simply, "Chasing Townes,"
And I found myself slowing down...
"I'm seaching, sir, for that gambler,
Certain things he knows too rightly,
Of secrets I have held so tightly,
I must ask him where and when he won my life."
I shook my head as he climbed on,
"I know not where the gambler's gone."
We watched the years and trucks fly by,
Threw our mood rings from the car,
Still nothing on the FM band,
Saw a tall man with an old guitar,
Sitting on the guarding rail,
Smiling as we met his hail...
"I'm searching, sirs, for that spider,
The ten-legged giant with tunefull stride,
Who across his six-strand web does glide,
With no effort but with great effect."
We shook our heads as he climbed on,
"We know not where the spider's gone."
Fog followed us into Tennessee,
Enshrouding the hills as if cursed,
And likewise rapped our radio,
Spied a vision cloaked in verse,
With beaming hair of red and gold,
Shining through the misty cold...
"I'm searching, sirs, for that voice,
Which like a mountain stream must wind,
And rend and tear its path to find,
To bring its gifts to those below."
We shook our heads as she climbed on,
"We know not where the voice has gone."
Driving downhill into Nashville,
Engine died as the year was born,
As we rolled to stop before a church,
Where a crowd assembled a man to mourn.
With restless souls and sleepless eyes,
Four strangers strive to recognize...
"We're searching, sirs, for that poet,
The voice, the spider, the gambler,
The drinker, the singer, the rambler,
Who's led us here through thirty years."
A hundred smiles did lead us on,
"We'll show you where the poet's gone -
"A lifetime's journey is judged, my friends,
Not by what you take along
But what you leave behind.
The devine understand; the flesh, it ends,
So they grant the gift of song
The fortunate to find..."
Following those curious words,
They led us in, our travels done -
The chords, the lyrics, the music
We knew, four singing as if one.
And tears of joy leapt to our faces,
We understood, and took our places...
A thousand gamblers...
Ten thousand spiders...
A million poets...
Ten million voices...
Singing now and forever on...
All knowing where the man has gone.
To the late, great Townes Van Zandt
And even his demons shall mourn him
For they will never know such company...
The moon's come and gone but a few stars hang on to the sky
The wind's runnin' free but it ain't up to me to ask why
The poets are demanding their pay
They've left me with nothin' to say
'Cept hold me and tell me you'll be here to love me today
-The late, great Townes Van Zandt 1944-1997