On Woody Guthrie’s Birthday

Oh Woody, I am thinking about you!
I have grown somewhat bitter.
I must admit!
I know you – sometimes I fancy
that I am just like you.
But maybe it is because I know too much
and have been burnt by the fire.
So, a few questions I might ask. For
I am romantically involved so as to
mention – Sarah Ogan Gunning!

Was she bitter because Aunt Molly got
to hang around all them rich folks?
Was it because Pete played for the
Rockefellers, while singing –
I don’t want, your millions mister?

Hypocrisy is a bitch!
If you point it out –
they will bury you!
How much more crap should I take
before I “die with my hammer in
my hand?”

I heard Sarah ripped your ass once –
because you did one of her songs.
She picked your little ass up and
almost ringed your neck.
Is that true?

Woody, brother, i see what you saw,
and I think I know why you wrote all
night, alone, falling asleep on your
typewriter, full ashtray …

It takes a worried man,
to sing a worried song.

I certainly am worried.

One last question:

Did you ever hear Joe Hill talking
to you? I have.He said,
Don’t mourn, Organize.
So, i organized my life.
Trying not to get bitter and
am working now as a deck
hand on a Ohio River
Steamboat built two
years after you was borned.

Brother,
I wish we could hang out!
See, I worked on the railroad.
Found a lonesome darkness
engulfing me.
I gave it all up.
Once I built a railroad ..
you know the rest.

Brother,
For your birthday –
I offer you a song.
I wrote it for Jimmie
Rodgers. I have alot
in common with him too.

When the song
gets to the part where
I sing “I think y’all knowd.”
That part is for you!

Happy Birthday.

Love,
JP “Catfish John” Wright

P.S

You wanna hear some shit?
I heard Sarah Ogan died at a
singing circle. Time came
for her to sing. She took a
deep breath, and died.

I wonder if the dress she
wore was blue?

She sure knew how to
drive that steel!


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A Folk Music Concert.

I was asked to share a stage with Suzi Wood for Lettersong’s live radio show on Crescent Hill Radio. My performance is first and then …

Suzi Wood takes the stage!

Who?

1.

Who do you think

all this is for?

This careful talking,

pleading.

Who glances into the river

only to turn a blind eye?

Is it that something,

just beyond

the image,

deep surrounded

in murky

darkness?

2.

Quietly,

as so it seems!

There are angels

and demons at play.

Purposely serving

two masters.

Cutting underbrush

with blood dripping

down my ankles!

Sweat, running

down my brow.

Burning piles of

old growth

nothingness,

away.

Laughing nervously.

Crying out in vain!

Peacefully sleeping

in a work felt rest.

3.

Dying.

Yes, everyday as if

this death practice,

in the waking –

is for real.

Liken the thought

of your radiance,

life is the sweetness.

Reality comes

and goes.

I can’t stop the sun

from setting.

I can only turn

away for so long –

before succumbing

dark and soulless.

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A transcendentalists worst nightmare!

This morning and coffee, blind tightly shut.

Home away from home.

I try to embrace reality, in kind. Settle down,

breathe. Enjoy the cool fresh spring air.

A family waits for me at the other end of this L&N.

Thoughts have replaced song.

Worries soothed by experience.

Long stare, looking to nothing.

Thinking, mourning, dreaming.

Thinking about my father, step father, mother.

An upbringing, theirs.

An awesome task, responsibility to a son and wife.

Facts, equations, works.

Draw a solid line under all the fulfillment of life.

Like a prayer. A mandala of me like the last grain

of sand from a monk’s artful creation blown away.

Collected and thrown into today and tomorrows.

There is a new moment out there past closed hotel windows.

I have not seen it yet. This plastic room, nothing here

is real. I have no want to be exposed to foreign light.

Television, Mode of operation, Facebook, Twitter.

All this is for folly! The worried words of so called

friends. Their worry. I know just a drop of his story,

her want. Vanity glaring on pixel glass’ reflection.

An unreachable solidarity. Knowing of pain.

Of no relief or an outlet. Sharing a tremendous burden.

Like nothing we have never experienced.

I fancy that poets of old like us meet.

Dreamers of dreams. Scribes of time and place.

A mirror for some. The melody of life of

dissonance and harmony metaphorically tricking

an orchestra into laying down their instruments

and dancing with the audience.

This morning and coffee after a short rest.

These words are for anyone who has time.

I take time. Like that time, as a child I stole

some gum from the little mom and pop up the street.

I have reasoning and excuses

that afford me that sort of favor!

Mine! All this is ours anyway!

This. Some seem to be praying for an end.

I know how to make it all stop.

Power is a button I know how to push.

Revolt, revolution, revolving.

A love supreme in action and in thought.

A pursuance of Psalms, a wisdom of history.

Holding sympathetic breath screaming.

We do need each other. Duality.

A transcendentalists worst nightmare!

My Mother Was A Teacher! #120strong

My mother at a late age
decided to go back to college.
To become a teacher!
She was my Cub Scout den mother,
we saved stamps for Bangladesh.

And after we filled gallon ice cream buckets
with stamps, thousands of used stamps to
be matched face value, the Boy Scouts of
America put us on the front page of Boy’s Life!
They didn’t like our activism at first.

Bangladesh? Where is that? Many people
would ask, and us kids had just learned
ourselves, about poverty and working conditions.
We were doing something, just a little something
to help, my mother leading us by heart and action.

In college, she helped to fight Apartheid.
I learned to get up stand up, stand up for
your rights. I lived in fear my mom would be
arrested. I did my homework, with her new
college buddies at Denny’s – organizing.

After divestment, and graduation, she left
her activism to teach, “I took my activism to the
classroom” – she said many times. I remember
her first days, nervous and scared – the little
mixed girl from east Jefferson St. Mother of three.

Her first classroom was as small as a closet.
Her children labeled behavior problems.
She said frequently her kids were the poorest
of the poor white, and the poorest of the poor
black, Lake Dreamland and Cotterhomes.

Her children. She told stories of home visits
with kids who had dirt floors, and issues
because of where they were living.
She made a thousand excuses for them
because they were the ones left behind.

“Poverty knows no color”, I remember her saying.
I remember hours around the kitchen table
she worked at home grading papers.
Calls to parents, worrying about her kids.
Wondering if they would make it to school.

When the school system wanted to label me –
she let me quit school at the age of sixteen.
She knew i was special, her lessons deep
with moral, her life was lesson enough –
the youngest of many, an immigrants kid.

Raised in the Jim Crow south – her country
white Baptist mother and her accent –
her brown Lebanese father, afraid to teach his kids
their language because he didn’t want his
children to be made fun of. Singled out.

The underdog was who my teacher mother
fought for! Her kids, the ones who chemicals
had infected, music had exploited – parents
had abandoned, boys with no fathers, girls
with no roll models, families struggling to live.

If my mother could see what is going on now –
she would be another voice in the sea of red.
The teachers chanting “we’re not gonna take it!”
And it is a shame that these people who we all
have to thank, are having to take a day off.

Teaching is a calling, I saw it call my mother
to a life of struggle. Struggle like a mother
does when her children are sick. Or when her
classroom got too big for her to take care of
them individually. Or struggle with a Principal.

Who saw teaching like a business. Was more
worried about numbers than souls. Put their
politics before children. And it is sad that today
we are in this position. Our Teachers are begging
a government that has been raided by thieves –

for the right to do what they have been called
to do and for the pension and a retirement
that we all benefit from. This is a deep issue.
and if you think a bad teacher is hard to fire …
You really need to learn a serious life lesson.

Anyone can memorize talking points made
by the privitizers. The corporate lackies who
see children as products – say words like
productivity and profit. We as a people are
morally bankrupt, if we can’t stand up for teachers!

 

Schoolidarity Forever #120strong #kyunion


Schoolidarity Forever

When the union’s inspiration through the worker’s blood shall run.

There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun.

For what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one?

For the union makes us strong!

We are public educators and we’re here to take a stand!

This is not the lesson we asked for, this is a fight the politicians planned!

And we’ll stand up for our pensions and we’ll do it hand in hand!

For the union makes us strong!

Every school the board’s sabotage is ours and ours alone!

Every student, parent, worker every brick and every stone!

They are ours, not to languish in, but to thrive in and to own.

For the union makes us strong!

The politicians stole our pensions, and now they want our schools!

They tell us, “it’s just how things are,” and they play us for fools.

But we know that they rigged the game and we won’t obey their rules!

The union makes us strong!

They say “there’s no alternative,” they say it but they’re wrong!

There stealing from our children and they’ve done it for too long!

So join us in our picket lines and join us in our song,

For union makes us strong!

They have taken untold billions, that never toiled to earn!

But without our brains and muscles not a single kid can learn!

We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn!

That the union makes us strong!

In our homes and in our classrooms, in the banks and in the street,

our united people’s movement is a force that they can’t beat!

We are here to take back every Board of Education Seat!

And the union makes us strong!

In our hands is placed a power greater than their horded gold.

Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousand fold!

We can bring to birth a new world, from the ashes of the old!

For the union makes us strong.

Solidarity Forever!

Schoolidarity Forever!

Solidarity Forever!

For the union makes us strong!

Re-write 2018 – John Paul Wright – www.railroadmusic.org

Chicago Teachers – 2016 – Ralph Chaplin 1915 – I.W.W


 

Railroaded – The Railroad Teach-in

This is a work in progress. Click the links as we go … 


1860 – L&N railroad chartered in 1860 by the Commonwealth of Kentucky

In 30 years grew from 300 miles of track to 6000 miles

1863 – Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers founded

1865 – Civil War ends April 9th 1865

Song – Railroading On the Great Divide

1868 – The Fort Laramie Treaty The treaty includes an article intended to “ensure the civilization” of the Lakota, financial incentives for them to farm land and become competitive.

1869 – Gold Spike Driven by Leland Stanford of the Central Pacific railroad. Spike is on display at Stanford University (Cantor Arts Museum)

1874 – Gold Discovered in Black Hills

1891 – Haymarket in Louisville established

STOP – Competition in Agriculture

1893 – American Railway Union – First and Largest Industrial Union formed.

1893 – Strike of the Great Northern Railway.

1894 – Pullman Strike

STOP – Industrial Unionism and Eugene V. Debs

1900 – Feb 3rd William Goebel Shot (only US governor ever assassinated)

1900 – Casey Jones incident in Mississippi

Song – Original Casey Jones song written by Mrs. Jones

1905 – IWW

1906 – Federal Employers Liability Act Enacted

STOP – Behavior Based Safety

1917 – WWI – Railroads Nationalized until 1920

1922 – The Great RR Shop Strike

STOP – Carl Braden’s father

1926 – Railway Labor Act

1941 – WW2

Song – The Fields Have Turned Brown

1956 – National Interstate and Defense Highways Act

1962 – Haymarket closes (I65 ramp construction)

1971 – L&N Railroad purchased by Seaboard Coastline

Song – The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore

1977 – Wendell Berry publishes Unsettling of America

1979 – L&N sells Union Station to TARC. TARC spends 2 million to renovate

1979 – NY Dock Railway v. I.C.C

1980 – Staggers Act – Railroad Deregulation enacted and sponsored by Democrat Harley Staggers

1985 – First Farm Aid Concert in Champaign Il.

STOP – Just Transition

Song – Leave the Lights On For Me

1986 – CSXT railroad

2010 – Berkshire Hathaway offers $26 Billion to purchase BNSF railroad (Largest Acquisition)

END OF THE LINE