Valentine’s Murder Ballads

In light of our Valentine’s Murder Ballad workshop this past Monday, here are three songs written by our poets-turned-musicians!

“Oh, Matthew, Please” (to the tune of Matty Groves)
by Taylor Carver, Linnea Jimison, and Anita Skeen

One fair autumn morn as the sun beat down
I walked the dusty road to the far side of town.
I headed to the tavern to have myself a drink
And the whiskey cleared the thoughts that I dreaded not to think.

There she was a-standing in her dress of ocean blue.
I saw her in his arms and suddenly I knew –
Her eyes of emerald met me, as cold as any gem.
Malice got the best of me, I hurled myself at him.

We tumbled and we stumbled, we rumbled and we brawled.
I heard the bottles smash and then I heard her call,
“Oh, Matthew, please!  Oh, Matthew, please, don’t do this horrid deed!”
I felt the mirror shatter and the dark enfolded me.

Some say it was an accident, some say I took his life.
Some say the bard could not exist without the sheriff’s wife.
And though I’m in some distant land the posse’s at my back —
I’ve told my tale so many times – Is it fiction?  Is it fact?

Where’s the green-eyed woman whose eyes I once beheld?
Has she risen up to Heaven or does she rot in Hell?
As for me, the legends say I live with no regret.
Now autumn turns to winter but I haven’t found her yet.

“The Old Man in the Snow” (original song)
by Dorothy Brooks

The old man fell and stumbled
face down in the snow
Didn’t know what got him
he’ll never ever know

Long ago in the north woods
His rough hands worked the soil
Tried hard to feed his family
with his daily toil

His son’s new wife begrudged him
thought him sick and frail
Didn’t want to bother
to care for his travails

One day when he stopped by her house she
fixed him soup and bread
when the cook stove fire went out, he fetched
kindlin’ wood  instead

a blizzard was a’blowin’ and
as he staggered back, he
thought, “My heart is givin’ out!” and
dropped there in his tracks

Hadn’t seen her earlier, slip
somethin’ in his tea
thought it was just sugar
sweet as sweet could be.

One Gamblin’ Man (to the tune of Matty Groves)
by Fran Lewis

Johnny bludgeoned mom and dad,
And then he stabbed them both,
He swung at them with bat and sword
Until his wrath was done, done
Until his wrath was done.

The debts he racked up gamblin’
In high stakes poker games
Left our Johnny worse than broke
And desperate for a stake, stake
And desperate for a stake.

Johnny’s wife and baby son
All lived in a real nice house.
This paid for by Daddy’s loan,
But Mom, she disapproved, proved,
But Mom, she disapproved.

She said, “No! You’re gamblin’ son.
You know this path is wrong,
No good can come from such a life
It leads to a real bad end, end,
It leads to a real bad end.”

Now their Johnny, deep in debt,
No longer could he pay,
Brought his greed an’ a baseball bat
To invade his parents home, home,
Invade his parents home.

And Johnny’d plotted long and hard
To fake his alibi
Even shut down his cell-phone
So’s not to leave a trail, trail,
So’s not to leave a trail.

The cops worked out his devious plan
Right down to the bloody shoes
whose prints he used to trick them—
To prove that he was true, true,
To prove that he was true.

Johnny ran ten thousand miles
To put them off the scent,
But couldn’t hide his gamblin’ life
From others in the game, game,
From others in the game.

Our Johnny turned to Craigslist,
Sought female company,
The cops tracked his ads online,
As evidence mounted up, up,
Evidence mounted up.

Wife and Sister feared his wrath
Would turn on them one day.
When he drew near they ran and hid
So’s just to stay alive, live,
So’s just to stay alive.

The cops, they made their own plans
To catch him and convict.
And so his wife did aid them,
Record his calls, for trial, trial,
Record his calls, for trial.

In time, all saw him cuffed and dragged
Away to prison’s arms,
He’ll molder there for years and years
Until his death-day comes, comes,
Until his death-day comes.

Published by cpoetrymsu

The Center for Poetry opened in the fall of 2007 to encourage the reading, writing, and discussion of poetry and to create an awareness of the place and power of poetry in our everyday lives. We think about this in a number of ways, including through readings, shows, community outreach, and workshops. We are at work building a poetry community at MSU and in the greater Lansing area. Contact: (517) 884-1932

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