Heron King Blues

(Thrill Jockey; 2004)

By Chet Betz | 1 February 2004

The Heron King’s Last Speech:

Hundreds of years ago, on that British isle, I was a scarecrow. In this country of dueling banjos and dirty rivers, I shall be a god.

I have a dream of an America protected by titanium tractors and silver-bullet shotguns. We’ll hunt deer in the slums; we’ll kill each other in the forests. All your automobiles will die; they’ll melt in the Grand Canyon; we’ll mold the stew into a steel phoenix that will fly forth and take my glory to every corner of the solar system.

Operation Heron King Blues consists of eight easy steps.

Wingbone: "Carry your bed on wingbone legs, let the constellations drop water." In my dream, a guitar thrums gently and harshly. Plucked banjo and hand drums interject. A piano note divides territories. The workers in the fields sweat incense for the setting sun, and they’ll sing about pasture moonlight to cool their brows.

Trick Bird: "Walk into my mouth and tongue marsh’s mine enemy my enemy my enemy my." In my dream, Americana drones join hands with soft industrial drums over a bed of organs. The factory scrappers and the smoking flappers throw their caps and hankies in the air as confetti clogs the smog; they celebrate some transatlantic victory in slow motion.

Sawtooth Sung a Cheater’s Song: "Locked into it a painted fake old medicine seven lean kine." In my dream, stringed instruments of wood and horsehair whinny from a cabin of the Florida wetlands. An alligator grins and falls asleep and snores.

Apple: "Glide down hold my skull in a crush of your legs break when you break when you break it." Steady percussion and loops hold up plucks and plunks, the diligence of the orchard workers that lets them bare the trees day by day. At night, they make painful love and whisper.

Lion and Bee: "Beggars breathe all one lung all one engine choir." In my dream, this step’s intermediary and faint, barely felt for all its strength.

2 Sisters Drunk on Each Other: "Red foot cold floor you’re the root you’re the hanging tree you’re Easter in the Philippines." A hundred farmers stomp their feet in time, grit guitars shingle country funk, and the old men clap their hands. Two redheads twirl to "the sexiest of slow jams" (El Producto).

Heron King Blues: In my dream, London Bridge is falling down, and little rag girls cut circles in rugs. With bass for the heartbeat, a body of instruments contorts and slides. In the end, we’ll all nod our heads and sway our hips, and we’ll burn down every goddamn bridge.

Outro: In my dream, everything fades.

When I awoke, I found myself in a dream not my own. It was the dream of a man with a guitar and a pine bark throat. Like moonshine, I made him ramble and crazy. His many friends joined him, and in an abandoned boxcar they played my story. I was born in England, but I have seen America through a glass darkly.