Mermaid Avenue

Last night or the night before that,
I won’t say which night
A seaman friend of mine,
I’ll not say which seaman,
Walked up to a big old building,
I won’t say which building,
And would have not walked up the stairs,
not to say which stairs,
If there had not been two girls,
leaving out the names of those two girls.

I recall a door, a big long room,
I’ll not tell which room,
I remember a deep blue rug,
But I can’t say which rug,
A girl took down a book of poems,
not to say which book of poems,
And as she read, I lay my head,
and I can’t tell which head,
Down in her lap, and I can mention which lap

My seaman buddy and girl moved off
after a couple of pages and there I was,
All night long, laying and listening
and forgetting the poems.
And as well as I could recall
or my seaman buddy could recollect,
My girl had told us that she was a niece,
of Walt Whitman, but now which niece,
And it takes a night and a girl
and a book of this kind
A long long time to find its way back

I’d like to rest my heavy head tonight
On a bed of California stars
I’d like to lay my weary bones tonight
On a bed of California stars

I’d love to feel your hand touching mine
And tell me why I must keep working on
Yes, I’d give my life to lay my head tonight
On a bed of California stars

I’d like to dream my troubles all away
On a bed of California stars
Jump up from my starbed and make another day
Underneath my California stars

They hang like grapes on vines that shine
And warm the lovers glass lke friendly wine
So, I’d give this world
just to dream a dream with you
On our bed of California stars

I lived in a place called Okfuskee
and I had a little girl in a holler tree
I said, little girl, it’s plain to see,
there ain’t nobody that can sing like me

She said it’s hard for me to see
how one little boy got so ugly
Yes, my little girly, that might be,
But there ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me
way over yonder in the minor key
Way over yonder in the minor key
there ain’t nobody that can sing like me

We walked down by the Buckeye Creek
to see he frog eat the goggle eye bee
To hear that west wind whistle to the east,
there ain’t nobody that can sing like me

Oh my little girly will you let me see,
where over yonder where the wind blows free
Nobody can see in our holler tree
and there ain’t nobody that can sing like me

Her mama cut a switch from a cherry tree
and laid it on the she and me
It stung lots worse than a hive of bees
but there ain’t nobody that can sing like me

Now I have walked a long long ways
and I still look back to my tanglewood days,
I’ve led lots of girlies since then to stray
saying, ain’t nobody that can sing like me

The birds are singing in your eyes today
Sweet flowers blossom in your smile
The wind and sun are in the words you say
Where might your lonesome lover be?

Birds maybe singing in my eyes today
Sweet flowers blossom when I smile,
But my soul is stormy and my heart blows wild,
My sweetheart rides a ship on the sea

Hoodoo Voodoo, seven twenty one two
Haystacka hostacka, A B C
High poker, low poker, ninety nine a zero
Sidewalk, streetcar, dance a goofy dance

Blackbirdy, bluejay; one two three four,
Trash sack, jump back E F G,
Biggy hat, little hat, fattyman, skinnyman,
Grasshopper, greensnake, hold my hand

Hoodoo voodoo, chooka, chooky choochoo,
True blue, how true, kissle me now

Momma cat, Tommy cat, diaper on my clothes line
Two four six eight, I run and hide
Pretty girl, pretty boy, pony on a tincan,
I’ll be yours and you’ll be mine

Jinga, jangler, tingalingle,
picture on a bricky wall
Hot and scamper, foamy lather, huggle me close
Hot breeze, old cheese,
slicky slacky fishy tails
Brush my hair and kissle me some more

Ten hundred books could I write you about her
Because I felt if I could know her
I would know all women
And they’ve not been any too well known
for brains and planning and organised thinking
But I’m sure the women are equal
And they may be ahead of the men

Yet I wouldn’t spread such a rumor around
because one organises the other
And sometimes the most lost and wasted
attract the most balanced and sane
And the wild and the reckless take up
with the clocked and the timed
And the mixture is all of us
And we’re still mixing

But never, never, never,
Never could have it been done
If the women hadn’t entered into the deal
Like she came along to me

And all creeds and kinds and colors
of us are blending
Till I suppose ten million years from now
we’ll all be just alike
Same color, same size, working together
And maybe we’ll have all of the fascists
out of the way by then
Maybe so.

At my window sad and lonely,
oft times do I think of thee
Sad and lonely and I wonder
do you ever think of me?

Every day is sad and lonely
every night is sad and blue
Do you ever think of me my darling
as you sail that ocean blue?

At my window, sad and lonely,
I stand and look across the sea
I, sad and lonely,
wonder, do you ever think of me?

Will you find another sweetheart
In some far and distant land?
Sad and lonely now I wonder if
our boat will ever land?

Ships may ply the stormy ocean
planes may fly the stormy sky
Sad and lonely but remember
I will love you till I die

Ingrid Bergman, Ingrid Bergman,
let’s go make a picture
On the island of Stromboli, Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman, you’re so perty,
you’d make any mountain quiver
You’d make fire fly from the crater,
Ingrid Bergman

This old mountain it’s been waiting
All its life for you to work it
For your hand to touch its hardrock,
Ingrid Bergman, Ingrid Bergman

If you’ll walk across my camera,
I will flash the world your story,
I will pay you more than money, Ingrid Bergman

Not by pennies dimes nor quarters,
but with happy sons and daughters,
And they’ll sing around Stromboli,
Ingrid Bergman

Let’s have Christ for President.
Let us have him for our King.
Cast your vote for the Carpenter
that you call the Nazarene.

The only way we can ever beat
these crooked politician men
Is to run the money changers out of the temple
And put the Carpenter in

O It’s Jesus Christ for president
God above our king
With a job and a pension for young and old
We will make hallelujah ring

Every year we waste enough
to feed the ones who starve
We build our civilization up
and we shoot it down with wars

But with the Carpenter on the seat
away up in the capital town
The USA would be on the way prosperity bound!

I guess I planted some long lonesome
seed of a song
Way down inside me long ago
And now I can’t remember when it was
But it joined up with the rest of them and grows
It’s such a little song it don’t compare
With all your big ones you hear everywhere
But when it dawns way in the back of your mind
The big ones are made up of the little kind

Union song. Union battled.
All added up. Won us what we got now

I can’t even start to look around me here
Without hearing this song
And seeing all of us first separated,
Hurt, apart and afraid
And hungry for the union
And so we kept on
Singing and working, fighting till we got it.
And this is the big union song I guess I hear.

We fought there at your place
We fought there on your ship
And I guess if you missed out on
the fight for our union,
You missed out on one awful big step
Us people took.

One by one the teardrops fall as I write to you
One by one my words come falling on the page
One by one my dreams are fading in the twilight
One by one my schemes are failing fast away

One by one the flowers fade here in my garden
One by one the leaves are falling from the trees
One by one my hopes are vanished in the clouds dear
One by one like snowflakes melting in the breeze

One by one my hair is turning grey
One by one my dreams are fading fast away
One by one I ready your letters over
One by one I lay them all away

One by one the days are slipping up behind you
One by one the sweetest days of life go by
One by one the moments stealing up behind you
One by one she’ll come and find not you or I

One by one I hear the soft words that you whispered
One by one I feel your kisses soft and sweet
One by one I hope you’ll say the words to marry
One by one to one by one forever b

Eisler on the go, Eisler on the move
Brother is on the vinegar truck
and I don’t know what I’ll do

I don’t know what I’ll do,
I don’t know what I’ll do
Eisler’s on the come and go
and I don’t know what I’ll do

Eisler on the farm, Eisler on the town
Sister in the tickly bush
and I don’t know what I’ll do

Eisler on the boat, Eisler on the ship
Daddy on the henhouse roof
and I don’t know what I’ll do

Eisler in the jailoe, Eisler back at home,
Rankin scratch his head and cry
and I don’t know what I’ll do

Eisler him write music, Eisler him teach school,
Truman him don’t play so good
and I don’t know what I’ll do

For your sparkling cocky smile
I have walked a million miles
Begging you to come wed me in the Spring
Why do you my dear delay,
What makes you laugh and turn away?
You’re a hesitating beauty, Nora Lee

Well I know that you are itching to get married,
Nora Lee
And I know I am twitching for the same thing,
Nora Lee
By the stars and clouds above,
we can spend our lives in love
You’re a hesitating beauty, Nora Lee

We can build a house and home
where the flowers come to bloom
Around our yard I’ll nail a fence so high
That the boys with peeping eyes
cannot see that angel face
Of my hesitating beauty, Nora Lee

We can ramble hand in hand
across the grasses of our land
I’ll kiss you for each leaf on every tree
we can bring our kids to play
where the dry winds blow today
If you’ll quit your hesitating, Nora Lee

Sometimes I think I’m gonna lose my mind
But it don’t look like I ever do
I loved so many people everywhere I went
Some too much, others not enough

I don’t know, I may go down or up or anywhere
But I feel like this scribbling might stay

Maybe if I hadn’t of seen so much hard feelings
I might not could have felt other people’s
So when you think of me, if and when you do,
Just say, well, another man’s done gone
Well, another man’s done gone

To the rich man’s bright lodges I ride in this wind
On my good horse I call you my shiny Black Bess
To the playhouse of fortune
to take the bright silver
And gold you have taken from somebody else

As we go riding in the damp foggy midnight
You snort, my good pony, and you give me your best
For you know, and I know, good horse,
‘mongst the rich ones
How oftimes we go there an unwelcome guest

I’ve never took food from the widows and orphans
And never a hard working man I oppressed
So take your pace easy,
for home soon like lightning
We soon will be riding, my shiny Black Bess

No fat rich man’s pony can ever overtake you
And there’s not a rider from the east to the west
Could hold you a light
in this dark mist and midnight
When the potbellied thieves
chase their unwelcome guest

I don’t know, good horse,
as we trot in this dark here
That robbing the rich is for worse or for best
They take it by stealing and lying and gambling
And I take it my way, my shiny Black Bess

I treat horses good and I’m friendly to strangers
I ride and your running makes my guns talk the best
And the rangers and deputies
are hired by the rich man
To catch me and hang me, my shining Black Bess

Yes, they’ll catch me napping one day
and they’ll kill me
And then I’ll be gone but that won’t be my end
For my guns and my saddle will always be filled
By unwelcome travellers and other brave men

And they’ll take the money and spread it out equal
Just like the Bible and the prophets suggest
But the men that go riding to help these poor workers
The rich will cut down like an unwelcome guest

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© Billy Bragg 2019