City Limits (by Adam Selzer)

We sometimes speak in what we know as zombie slang
bringing back the dead words, daddy-o
in a last ditch effort to make ourselves feel cool
because this town is not hip, in fact it's a waist
full of overgrown weeds and overgrown faces

overgrown potholes in all the wrong places.
But when the rain comes down on the washed out shingles
what you hear is like the guttural whisper of a passenger train

chuga bompa chuga bombpa chuga bompa chuga bomba bomp bomp be domp bomp
like the lonesome bitter ghost of that old drummer who died on the sleeper
back when the jazz daddies were still riding trains all over.
They say he was lying on his back, straining to stick his head out the window,
wasted on heroin for the last time and shouting out with what was left of his breath

There's no way I'm dying in this town!"
But he didn't make it, he bought the farm in the city limits

and the last thing he ever wanted was a goddamn farm in the first place.
This is what we have in this town:
An old town square for the small town faithful, three prisons,
a coupla tattoo parlors where there are never any sailors
and the stretch of tracks where Black Cat Harris finally bought it.
And I see his ghost peeking into windows in the bars late on the colder nights,
or sometimes he's sitting on top of the lonely traffic light on Clark and Hancock

and I can see that he's aged well, though on these random fleeting sightings

I never get close enough to see that certain manic glint in his eyes
that his friends talk about all the time in that biography that Cohen wrote.
But when I see him under the old wooden bridge every time the train goes by
He looks right in my direction and glows a little bit whenever the whistle blows
and that's when I can see, oh, yeah, that's the glint they meant all night
I can tell even though they've never found a good photograph of it
just a murky one that someone took from too far back
in a nightclub full of sailors somewhere in Europe during the war.

Then he shouts at me in fluent zombie slang, but I can't decipher it yet
so mostly we just communicate by banging on whatever's handy
and I never know what I'm saying, except for maybe a word here and there
but he knows what I mean and I swear to God I understand every word he drums.
He does a little monologue about this girl he once saw on the boardwalk in Jersey
and spouts off some famous sayings that are collected in the liner notes of his greatest hits
but mostly he just says "Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving, keep moving…"
over and over like the record is scratched, only not quite the same
and then as the train pulls away he disappears like a slow fade with too much echo.
But if I listen hard enough in the middle of the night when I'm lying in bed
I can always hear the train rumble by in some distant town outside the city limits.
Keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving.

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Adam's New Book: Sept 2013