Mar 142010

There was Claw-fingered Kitty and Windy Ike
living the life of shame,
When unto them in the Long, Long Night came
the man-who-had-no-name…

So yesterday I drove Jonah to the woods of Middle Grove west of Saratoga Springs where he spent three hours with this amazing musician named Russell Slater. Listen to Slater at While Jonah fondled synthesizers and midi guitars, I wandered over to the Ballston Spa Antique Center where I stumbled upon a copy of Ballads of a Cheechako by the Scottish writer Robert Service; you probably all know “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” Service spent a good deal of time in Canada and became world famous for his poems about the Yukon. His brother joined the Canadian army and was killed in action in the First World War. Service’s poems are comic but have this mysterious edge, like dream figures coming out of the darkness. I love the lines above. He works with types instead of metaphor, but the types seem mythic, rock-hewn, and silly all at once. Take the phrases by themselves (notice the capitalization):

  • Claw-fingered Kitty (I can’t get much traction with Windy Ike)
  • living the life of shame
  • the Long, Long Night
  • the man-who-had-no-name


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