Category Archives: Poetry

Good Song – Map

Here is the complete identity for each of the songs from last Thursday’s Good Song posting.

Verse 1

Butterfly Lake – Paule Masse
Indian Lake – The Cowsills
Night Flight – Led Zeppelin
Harvest Moon – Pink Floyd
Moonlight in Vermont  – Linda Ronstadt
Three Flights Up­  – Nanci Griffith
Hangdog Hotel Room – Gordon Lightfoot
Room to Move – John Mayall
Plan Your Revolution ­– John Mayall
Rocky Racoon – The Beatles
All The Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople
Gasoline Alley – Rod Stewart

Verse 2

Poison Ivy – The Rolling Stones
Going to New York­ – Jimmy Reed
When the Sun is Shining – Jimmy Reed
One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer – John Lee Hooker
Jambalaya – Hank Williams
Home Grown Tomatoes – John Denver (Higher Ground)
Bad Brahma Bull – Chris Ledoux
Grazin’ in the Grass – Hugh Masakela
White Lightin’ – George Jones
Jim Dandy ­– Black Oak Arkansas
Main Street­ – Bob Segar
Hurricane Drunk – Florence and the Machine
Love Drunk – Charlotte Church
Stoned Immaculate – The Doors
Pretty Little Adriana – Vince Gill

Verse 3

Black Skies – Ginger Baker
Black Water ­ – The Doobie Brothers
Black Country Woman – Led Zeppelin
Back to Black – Amy Winehouse
Black Mountain Blues – Bessie Smith
Black Mare Blues – Big Bill Broonzy
A Long Black Veil­ – Burl Ives/The Band
A Long Black Train – Josh Turner
Black Coffee – Humble Pie
Black Velvet – Alannah Myles
Black Jack Davy – Steeleye Span
Black Diamond Bay – Bob Dylan

Verse 4

Oklahoma Hills – Tex Ritter, Jack Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie
Smokin’ – Boston
Sioux City Sue – Tex Ritter
Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room – Brownsville Station/Motley Crue
Going up the Country – Canned Heat
The Hanging Garden – The Cure
Sugar Magnolia – The Grateful Dead
Garden of Eden­ – Country Joe McDonald
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – Iron Butterfly
String of Pearls – Glenn Miller
Delta Lady – Leon Russell
Cryin’ – Don McLean
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheep – ACDC
I Fought the Law – Bobby Fuller Four/The Clash/Kris & Rita
‘Buked and Scorned – Odetta

Verse 5

Maggie May – Rod Stewart
Chelsea Morning – Joni Mitchell
Amie­ – Pure Prairie League
Angie – The Rolling Stones
Brandy – The Left Banke
Jean­ – Oliver
Little Jeanie – Elton John
Rene – The Small Faces
Melissa­ – The Allman Brothers
Winter Time – The Steve Miller Band
Oak Fire – Lee Michaels
Smoke of a Distant Fire – John Townsend (Sanford-Townsend Band)
Mama Lou – Rita Coolidge
Betty Lou­ – David Michael Jackson
Peggy Sue – Buddy Holly
Runaround Sue – Dion
Leather Angel – Black Oak Arkansas
Clair – Gilbert O’Sullivan
Denise, Denise – Randy and the Rainbows
Judy in Disguise – John Fred & His Playboy Band
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – The Beatles
Layla – Eric Clapton
Susanne – Leonard Cohen
My Cherie Amour – Stevie Wonder
Mandy – Barry Manilow
Candy Girl – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Roxanne – Sting
Mean Street – Van Halen
Sylvie – Harry Belafonte
Matilda­ – Harry Belafonte
Sulky Girl – Elvis Costello
Pretty Girl – The Yardbirds
Border Town Girl – Los Lobos
Cinnamon Girl – Neil Young
Mountain Girl – Judy Collins
Naughty Girl –  Mac Davis
Danville Girl – Woody Guthrie
Good Girls – Johnny Cougar (John Mellencamp)
Beautiful Girls – Van Halen
West End Girls – Pet Shop Boys
Girls on Film – Duran Duran
Girls, Girls, Girls – Sailor
Last of the American Girls – Green Day

Good Song

I have been taking Music and Theater classes at the local community college including a couple of songwriting and composition classes. On one particular day the topic of discussion was what makes a song good, or bad for that matter. Now I don’t really think there is a definitive answer but it got me to thinking and I began to sketch, what might be considered a poem, using the titles of songs. Well I finished it and shared it with my instructor who said that he would have to look some of them up. I counted ninety-seven (97) song titles when I wrote it. How many can you identify? (Answers on Sunday)

What makes a good song good?
What makes a good song bad?
What makes a bad song bad?
What makes a bad song good?

Sometimes a good song is …
A trip to Butterfly Lake after a summer on Indian Lake
A Night Flight to the Harvest Moon
Or simply enjoying the Moonlight in Vermont
Or Three Flights Up in a Hangdog Hotel Room
Where you have some Room to Move
While you Plan Your Revolution with Rocky Racoon
And All The Young Dudes down on Gasoline Alley

Maybe a good song is …
Getting over a case Poison Ivy
Or Going to New York when The Sun is Shining
Or downing One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer
With a bowl of Jambalaya and a plate of Home Grown Tomatoes
While a Bad Brahma Bull is a Grazin’ in the Grass
Or drinking White Lightin’ with Jim Dandy down on Main Street
Or getting Hurricane Drunk, Love Drunk,
Or Stoned Immaculate with Pretty Little Adriana

Perhaps a good song is …
Found under Black Skies, swimming in Black Water,
Running from a Black Country Woman or simply fading Back to Black
Or when you’ve got the Black Mountain Blues
Or even the Black Mare Blues
A Long Black Veil or a Long Black Train
A cup of Black Coffee or a taste of Black Velvet
Sailing with Black Jack Davy on Black Diamond Bay

I remember when a good song was …
Riding in the Oklahoma Hills
Smokin’ with Sioux City Sue or Smokin in the Boy’s Room
Going up the Country to The Hanging Garden for a date with Sugar Magnolia
In The Garden of Eden or In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
A String of Pearls for a Delta Lady Cryin over Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Serving 30 Days in the Hole after being tied to the Whipping Post
Because I Fought the Law and now I’m ‘Buked and Scorned

But sometimes a really good song is …
Is Maggie May on a plush Chelsea Morning
Amie, Angie, Brandy, Jean, Little Jeanie, or Rene
Melissa and an Oak Fire in the Winter Time
Who tears from the Smoke of a Distant Fire
Mama Lou, Betty Lou, Peggy Sue, and Runaround Sue my Leather Angel
Clair, Denise-Denise, Judy in Disguise, and Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
Layla, Susanne, My Cherie Amour, Mandy, Candy Girl,
And Roxanne on the Mean Street,
Sylvie, Matilda, and any Brown Skin Girl
Sulky Girl, Pretty Girl, Border Town Girl, Cinnamon Girl,
Mountain Girl, Naughty Girl, and the Danville Girl
Good Girls, Beautiful Girls, West End Girls, Girls on Film, Girls, Girls, Girls
And the Last of the American Girls

What makes a good song good?
What makes a good song bad?
What makes a bad song bad?
What makes a bad song good?

What makes a song anything at all is being heard
Is in the ear of the beholder
And if those ears number in the millions
You’ll fall down backwards rich

“And that’s all I have to say about that.”


This past Saturday morning I was driving westbound on Interstate 10 heading for the monthly Creative Writers Club meeting when a billboard turned my thoughts to a sixth grade classmate of mine – from that single school year when I attended the South Bay Junior Academy, which was (and still is) a Seventh Day Adventist School. Well, I thought about Bonnie Jean, and the love poems this shy eleven-year-old wrote for her, and the fact that I never gave her any of them, although I encoded a few that I presented to her but never revealed how to decode them.

From that memory I segued five years ahead in time to when I wrote poetry and essays on almost a daily basis. One of those circa 1970 poems I wrote was in the vein of Lord Byron’s: “She Walks in Beauty.” Now I wasn’t really writing the poem about anyone in particular but I was quite inspired by the English Romantic poets, which besides Byron, included Keats, Shelly, and of course the penultimate William Blake. Back in those halcyon days it was quite common for some of us to get together and share our poetic attempts with one another and tell each other how good we were. I showed my attempt to emulate Byron to my friend Shelly, which happened to be on the occasion of her sixteenth birthday, and she liked it so much she asked if I’d dedicate it her, which I did. Now since that time I’ve moved a number of times, been through a failed marriage, a house fire, lost floppy disks, and crashed hard drives with misplaced backups and, as a result, only 42 poems and 1 short story (out of the many hundreds) survived from the period of 1960 to 1983, and this one was not one of the lucky ones.

I had liked that poem so much that I’d memorized it and later showed it to my Creative Writing professor at El Camino Junior College who called it trite and clichéish. Well, so much for taste. After I discovered the poem was lost to time I tore through my memory but all I could recall was:

For Shelly Dawson on the occasion of her 16th birthday.

The beauty of my true love
Is far beyond compare
Radiant beams from high above
Accent her body bare.

The grandeur of the mystic moon

Only a fragment of the original.

West Bound I10

By the time I entered the city of Upland on that west bound freeway my thoughts turned to the first poem I remember writing. It was late 1960 and I was in the first grade at William Green Elementary School. The previous fall I had been expelled from kindergarten for kicking the principal in the shin and on the first day of the first grade, September 6, 1960, I was told by him that I had to sit at the back of the classroom, turned away from the teacher and students, and was not permitted to turn or participate in class. What I was allowed to do was read any of the books that were shelved across the back of the classroom, draw, or write. Well, you can imagine that it’s quite difficult for a six-year-old not to turn and look when his classmates we’re laughing or giggling and so I was sent across the median to the principal’s office rather frequently for a tearful swat from his carved wooden paddle.

It’s a harsh, broken, memory, but I do recall soon finishing all of the books of even the slightest interest and thus began my writing career with an epic poem about a spy that I’m sure was inspired by one of the books I read while sitting alone at the back of the classroom. It too did not survive the wrath of time but this is how it began:

The Spy

There once was a spy
The size of a fly
Who went to war
Riding a boar

Well, if you’re thinking it’s a good thing this epic didn’t survive, that’s really okay, because what did survive was the creative spirit born of the necessity for a young boy to entertain himself while seated alone at the back of a classroom.

Like the bits and pieces of the poems my memories survive in much the same way. A little bit from here, a little piece from there, sometimes even an entire scene, and sometimes only a static image of an old friend who is no longer with us, or who simply went on a path that diverged from my own.

Now that I’m nearing the end of my sixth decade I’ve decided to treasure all of my little bits and pieces, be they joyous or painful, because, after all, these fragments are my life.

Time Travel

I returned abruptly to the present at 6:08 am. It was painful to say the least. In fact, I continued to lie in my bed until 7:30 hoping to reclaim just a small piece of the wonder that I had been enjoying.

I was way back in the yesterdays with my first best friend, the first person I remember loving, and that one person that once asked me for something that I did not possess at the time. In last night’s escape we journeyed on the back of my time machine from the southern Arizona desert, where a praying monk once blessed us while bats gathered nectar from the night blooming flowers of the saguaros, to the Canadian Rockies where Alberta and British Columbia are divided by some of the most spectacular scenery on our little planet. What a Joy it was to pilot my Magna through the mountains with her once again holding tight about my waist, combating the wind by shouting into my ear on the Trans-Canadian Highway; Yoho, Golden, Kimbasket Lake, and her long hair blowing in the wind. Freedom, as it was meant to be.

I once read an article by a physicist who claimed that time travel was theoretically possible but it would require more energy to pull off than was contained within our visible universe. That is probably a very good thing as I loathe imagining how much more we could screw up with our simian brains. I for one have never really been able to wrap my mind around this dimension of time because, from my perspective, there is only the eternal Now and this human construct of time is simply a yardstick by which we measure the distance between events.

But, I’m thankful for my little time travels when I’m fortunate to be blessed by them. To be able to once again enjoy the company of those whose corporal experiences were cut way too short is nothing short of a miracle. Carol took her own life on Monday, December 13, 1976 and there is not a day goes by that I don’t have a thought and a prayer for my first best friend.


Concealed from life in dreary black linen
Abject love lies in endless decay.
Robbed of life by that curious demon,
On shadowy wings of Cimmerian gray.

Legended by ancestral states, to usher
Journeys to unfamiliar lands, where helpless
On the shores of your Stygian master,
You yearn for love you cannot possess.

Haunted by a silent phantom, my vague
Apparition of virgin splendor
Resurrects anew our relative plague
Released forever from social dolor.

In suicide a life is squandered,
Surrendered, but, forever remembered.

Samuel Thomas Nichols
January 31, 1979