Wednesday, April 10, 2019

"Outlaws: Billy the Kid and Clyde Barrow" by Bonnie Parker

I saw this poem, supposedly written by Bonnie Parker (the distaff half of the Bonnie and Clyde of 1930s fame), and I had to appreciate Parker's crooked sense of rhythm and the haunting lyricism of her imagery. It's a dark, grim poem, in which the world of the dead is as bleak as the world of the living; Parker apparently knew she was on a deathward trajectory, so most of her poems were in this vein. I still need to confirm that the following poem was indeed written by Parker, but whether it was or not, it kind of gave me the willies.

Billy rode on a pinto horse
Billy the Kid I mean
And he met Clyde Barrow riding
In a little gray machine

Billy drew his bridle rein
And Barrow stopped his car
And the dead man talked to the living man
Under the morning star

Billy said to the Barrow boy
Is this the way you ride
In a car that does its ninety per
Machine guns at each side?

I only had my pinto horse
And my six-gun tried and true
I could shoot but they got me
And someday they will get you!

For the men who live like you and me
Are playing a losing game
And the way we shoot, or the way we ride
Is all about the same

And the like of us may never hope
For death to set us free
For the living are always after you
And the dead are after me

Then out of the East arose the sound
Of hoof-beats with the dawn
And Billy pulled his rein and said
I must be moving on

And out of the West came the glare of a light
And the drone of a motor's song
And Barrow set his foot on the gas
And shouted back, 'So long'

So into the East, Clyde Barrow rode
And Billy, into the West
The living man who can know no peace
And the dead who can know no rest

—found here

And while we're on the spooky subject of foreordained death: do you know what one definition of barrow is? The man's death was written in his surname. I've got Bonnie and Clyde on the brain after reading that Netflix released a movie called "The Highwaymen," starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, which tells the Bonnie-and-Clyde story from the point of view of the cops who hunted them. It also appears that, long before Joan Jett performed "I Hate Myself for Loving You," those iconic words had been written by Bonnie Parker.


Charles said...

Tolkien fans will indeed know the definition of "barrow" you refer to. For all the epic-scale scary stuff that happens later on in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the barrow wights are still for my money the creepiest and most dread-inducing part of that story. Maybe Cirith Ungol, too. It's a toss up.

Kevin Kim said...

Stephen R. Donaldson, who wrote the three Chronicles of Thomas Covenant fantasy novels, was accused of ripping tons of tropes off Tolkien. This, too, might be one of them: in Donaldson's novels, there are creatures called Cavewights (somewhere between orcs and trolls), and their revered leader from millennia past, Drool Rockworm, is buried under the Wightbarrow in the heart of Kiril Threndor, a.k.a. Mount Thunder.

Wightbarrow. Barrow wights. Yes, I remember the barrow wights. Tolkien was a racist for constantly writing about wight people.

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

"Ghost Riders in the Sky"

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

matt said...

I couldn't help but be reminded me of Being from the late 1960s, I had no idea there was a video. Oddly, considering the previous comment, I can't hear this song without thinking that the repetitive violin went on to influence a song by the 1970s NYC electronic duo Suicide called Ghost Rider.