Thanks to Maureen Owen for giving me the assignment last week of writing a poem about or in the style of the blues. I got to thinking about the myth of the wandering bluesman (i.e. Robert Johnson, etc.) who walked this country with an acoustic guitar on their back and trauma in their blood. And then I remembered that this past summer our own living legend Bob Dylan was arrested for walking. And thus…
“I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like They Never Have Met)”
Based On A True Story
by Adam Perry
The poet-laureate of rock n’ roll is 68 years old
and released a #1 album in June
that includes a song called “It’s All Good”
and the line “hell is my wife’s home town.”
He’s still freewheelin’ like a complete unknown:
just as Charlie Patton rumbled through Mississipi,
Bob Dylan is still walkin’ dead streets
through the middle of nowhere,
through summer nights,
until his eyes begin to bleed
from playing over 100 shows a year.
Seems like a nice old man
and it’s true:
he’s on your block
just checkin’ out the houses
& enjoying some time out of mind
before his July gig at the local minor-league ballpark.
Dylan has written over 500 songs,
sold over 100 million albums,
played for the Pope and even won an Oscar.
He’s been divorced twice;
he almost died of a heart condition in 1997;
he found Jesus once and then lost him;
and now he’s content to ramble through small towns in the rain
like a folk-rock relic from a bygone era,
a wandering multi-millionaire suburban homesick bluesman
steppin’ over pavement, thinkin’ ‘bout the government
while you try to make the rent.
Bob Dylan is walkin’ right into your yard;
not for shelter from the storm – just to look around
because there’s a “For Sale” sign out front.
He leaves, but you call the police:
“Hello, 911? There’s an old Jewish man,
about 70 years old in a blue hooded sweatshirt
walking down my street.”
Things have changed:
nobody just “walks around” anymore –
especially not in New Jersey.
There must be something wrong with the joker man
whose hoodie strings are blowin’ in the wind
as he discovers your neighborhood.
You follow the thin man, the rolling stone
down the block as he whistles and rolls his eyes.
A 24-year old female police officer takes the emergency call
and rolls up next to Dylan in her cruiser while you watch.
“What is your name, sir?” she asks.
“Bob Dylan,” he replies.
She doesn’t believe him.
“We see a lot of people on our beat,
and I wasn’t sure if he came from one of our hospitals or something,”
she later says.
“What are you doing here?” she asks him from her car.
“I’m on tour,” Dylan calmly shoots back, saying he has no ID;
he was just enjoying an afternoon stroll
rather than sittin’ in his hotel room gathering dust
or knockin’ on room service’s door.
“He was acting very suspicious,” the officer said later.
“Not delusional, just suspicious. You know,
it was pouring rain and everything.
To be honest with you, I didn’t really believe it was Bob Dylan.
It never crossed my mind that it could really be him.”
the guy who pretended to be Woody Guthrie as a teenager
and then struggled with fame
as he refused to be “the voice of a generation”
and spent 8 years at home with his kids
during Woodstock and Watergate
is taken away in a New Jersey police car
for growing old as he walks down the drizzly street.
As the policewoman drives Bob Dylan to his hotel to find his ID,
they make small talk.
“He was really nice,” she says in hindsight.
“He asked me if I could drive him back to the neighborhood
when I verified who he was,
which made me even more suspicious.
But I pulled into the parking lot
and sure enough there were these enormous tour buses,
and I thought, ‘Whoa.'”
This never happened to Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf;
actually, the police probably would’ve held those bluesmen,
the last generation’s living legends,
at gunpoint for having the nerve to walk down the street.
But the young officer simply had a sergeant meet her –
and Bob Dylan –
at the hotel.
He opened the car door, looked inside at the rock legend
and said “that’s not Bob Dylan.”
They entered Dylan’s tour bus, were shown his passport
and told him “um, have a nice day.”
“I did not know what to believe
or where he was coming from
or even who he was,” the female officer later said,
and Dylan must be smiling.
Walking with Allen Ginsberg
through the cemetery in Lowell, Massachusetts
where Jack Kerouac is buried, Dylan once mused
“I want an unmarked grave.”
Look out your window:
the hermetic rock star just might be on your street,
testing you to see if he’s succeeded.