Industrial Worker Book Reveiw: 8 Hours to Work, 8 Hours to Sleep, 8 Hours to Read

How To Write a Song, Part One

Steve Davenport

Once I had a sorrow/ Long as a rainbow/ Crooked as an elbow/ Deep as a wish/ Wide as a dish.

I don’t believe in beginnings.  I believe in the long middle.  Once upon a time?  Storyteller’s trick.   Sweet invention. 

Once upon a time, a novelist asked me to do a podcast about writing.  Pick a topic, he said.  Because of longstanding interest and no practical experience, I chose songwriting and found a local musician/songwriter who agreed to talk to me about poem and song, about page and stage.  The novelist’s request was a catalyst, an accelerant, but it was not the beginning of anything.  I’d been preparing and waiting for years, decades. 

Once upon a time, a couple of months before the podcast request, I experience an event.  One minute I’m watching one of my four daughters do a thing well. 

Chorus: And now I got a woman/ and now I got some kids/ Now I got a woman/ Now I got some kids. 

Once upon a time a few minutes later, I’m walking with my family and I’m inventing a language none of us understands.  Mad song.  Crazy poem.  Against my will.   

Dear Stroke, you’re the saddle on my parakeet, the tangled soup on my alphabet feet.

Dear Stroke, I’ve tripped, I don’t know when, and I can’t get up.

Dear Stroke, a poet walks into a bar.  A poet walks into an ER.  A poet walks into a cave and loses the names of his daughters.  Bartender says if there’s a hole, that ain’t a bucket.

Once I had to borrow/ the whiskey from a bottle/ Started like a yodel/ then it was awful/ Then it was good/ Then it was a misery/ more than awful.

Saddle, syllable.

Once I had a sorrow in the long middle of a stroke.  Poet loses his place.  Syllable, saddle.  Says Humpty Dumpty without words.  Hickory Dickory Doc says to poet’s wife your husband’s caught in a stroke.  In the middle somewhere falling.  Away. 

Repeat chorus

Dear Stroke, you’re the tangle, the lock twitching in my tumbled sheet.  Dickory Doc asks Poet can you feel your pieces?  Poet walks into an ER with a bucket. Poet walks into a bar with a bucket.  The buckets share a hole.  Bartender asks what rhymes with bucket?  Say it if you can. Bartender says there once was a bucket in a cave in ?

Poet looks at him.  Nantucket, Doc says.  There once was a man from Nantucket who lived in a hole in a bucket.  Do you understand?

Once I found the walls/ that made this hole/ Once I grabbed the sides/ learned diamonds from coal/ Then I rose and then I fell/ Then I fell and then I rose.

Dear Stroke, you’re the cotton in concrete, the lost syllable in repeat.  There’s a hole and there’s a bucket.

Once upon a time, a couple of months after the event, I talked poem and song with musician/songwriter Bruce “Bruiser” Rummenie, who said he’d never written a song with anyone.  Once upon a time, later that evening at home, everyone in bed, I sat in my writing chair with a rhyming dictionary, a bottle of whiskey, and a glass. 

Repeat chorus

Dear Stroke, I did not write a song about you.  I invented a sorrow that Bruiser, who had no idea I was writing a lyric for him, might understand, might want to put to melody and sing.  I attached that sorrow, trouble song, to an email message.  I invented the long middle of a hole with no sides and a whiskey bottle with no bottom and a misery more than awful.  I hit send.  The next day Bruiser spanked it into flight.

Dear Stroke, once upon a time, Musician and Poet walked into a bar called Art Box Collective, sat at separate tables, and wrote their first song.  Then they wrote six more and put them on a CD.  

Dear Stroke, thank you.  Dear Stroke, fuck you.

Repeat chorus


Steve Davenport is the author of a couple of chapbooks, including Murder on Gasoline Lake, and two books of poetry: Uncontainable Noise (2006) and Overpass (2012).  He and Bruce “Bruiser” Rummenie have just published This Noise in My Blood, a CD of seven songs, with their label Bruised River Music.  If you want to hear their exploratory songwriting podcasts and sample early versions of two of the songs, the title track (“This Noise in My Blood”) and the song this essay points to (“Once I Had a Sorrow”), go here.  If you want to buy the CD ($10 plus shipping and handling) or talk poetry and song, contact Steve Davenport at  He’s also available at  If you’re nice or interesting or both, he can put you in touch with Bruiser.  In the meantime, here’s a taste:  And Part Two of “How To Write a Song”?   It’s about the ABC bar where they make all that “Honey and Glue.”

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