Saturday, October 29, 2011

Worth Repeating: Chuck Berry, A Poem by Cornelius Eady

The same sister who accompanied me to my first Chuck Berry concert some 40 years ago (I was 14) just gave me a poem by poet Cornelius Eady called "Chuck Berry."  I sent Mr. Eady an e-mail telling the story of that show, asking permission to run the poem here, and thanking him "for creating great art about a man that I consider one of our great artists."  He wrote back:  "Thanks for thinking of me, and sharing that wonderful memory. John Lennon once called CB one of America's great poets, and I have heard (and read) little to dis sway me of that notion."

I was going to wait until I had read more of Mr. Eady's poetry before running this-- but sometimes a gift is meant to be shared immediately.  As for the other poems, one's called "Amost Grown."  Could it be a coincidence?  "Almost Grown" shows up below, I think, along with bits and pieces and hints of "Carol," and "Nadine," "You Can't Catch Me," "Back in the U.S.A.," "Around and Around," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Johnny B. Goode," "Little Queenie," "Sweet Little Rock and Roller," and "Go, Go, Go".  I love that he knows these songs so thoroughly.  (I never can remember the name of the Chuck Berry song that is made up almost entirely of lines and titles of Chuck Berry songs.  His work lends itself to that sort of thing.)  This is a poem that seems to celebrate all of what's celebrateable about Chuck Berry-- the energy, the beauty, the felonies, the hard work, the poetry, the dance, and the thing Chuck Berry himself might be most proud of: "The amazing leap, from nobody to stockholder,  (Look, Ma, no hands), piped through a hot amp."  When you've finished the poem in your voice, you can hear him read it in his at the bottom of the page.  And you can learn more about Mr. Eady (who is moving to Chuck Berry's home state of Missouri soon) here and here.

Chuck Berry

Hamburger wizard,
Loose-limbed instigator,
V-8 engine, purring for a storm

The evidence of a tight skirt, viewed from
    the window of a moving city bus,
Yelling her name, a spell, into the glass.
The amazing leap, from nobody to stockholder,
(Look, Ma, no hands), piped through a hot amp.

Figure skater on the rim of the invisible class wall,
The strength of the dreamer who wakes up, and it’s
   Monday, a week of work, but gets out of bed

The unsung desire of the check-out clerk
The shops of the sleepy backwater town,
   waiting for the kid to make good,
   to chauffer home

The twang of the New Jersey turnpike
   in the wee, wee hours.
The myth of the lover as he passes, blameless
   through the walls.

The fury hidden in the word almost.
The fury hidden in the word please.

The dream of one’s name in lights,
Of sending the posse on the wrong trail,
Shaking the wounded Indian’s hand, a brother.

The pulse of a crowd, knowing that the police
Have pushed in the door, dancing regardless

The frenzy of the word go.
The frenzy of the word go.
The frenzy of the word go.

The spark between the thought of the kiss
   and receiving the kiss,
The tension in these words:
   You Can’t Dance.

The amazing duck walk
The understanding that all it's going to take
   is one fast song.

The triumph in these words:
   Bye-bye New Jersey, as if rising
   from a shallow grave.

The soda-jerk who plots doo-wop songs,
The well-intentioned Business School student
   who does what she’s told, suspects
   they’re keeping it hid.

Mr. Rock-n-Roll-jump-over
   (or get left behind),
Mr. Taxes? Who, me? Money beat,
Money beat, you can’t catch me,
   (but they do),

A perpetual well of quarters in the pocket.
The incalculable hit of energy in the voice
   of a 16 year-old as her favorite band
   hits the stage,

And 10,000 pair of eyes look for what they’re after:
And 10,000 voices roar for it:

And a multitude you wouldn’t care to count
   surrounds the joint, waits for their opportunity
   to break in.

(You can find this poem starting at 7:00)


Anonymous said...



Thanks. To quote W.S.Q., "I Heard That."

Anonymous said...

hey up man, check out some new chuck vids on youtube... chuck berry 1980 vancouver, b.c canada theres a few!! im on there trying some to... dominic 'chuck berry' cooper, england

Anonymous said...

Peter, The CB song that you mention with all the song titles in it is called - "Oh Yeah". I just recently heard it for the first time on the CD "Rockin' Rarities" recommended to my by Bob Lohr. A very good song. And a very good poem by Mr. Eady, Thanks!!
CB Forum ID - Busseybootlegger