Sunday, April 5, 2009


Whichaway, whichaway, does that
Blood red river run?

From my back window,
Straight to the rising sun?

The opening lines of Rising Sun Blues, as sung by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee -- imo one of the greatest couplets in all of poetry. What I picture is a cabin by a great river at sunrise, with someone inside looking out the back window. What he sees is not just the river, but the blood red band of sunlight, sparkling and streaming over the surface, pointing directly from the sun to him. Or from him to the sun. We've all seen it -- how the stream of dancing lights always points straight at us, no matter where we are. I used to look for that stream whenever I took the train to or from New York City, choosing my seat so I'd always be on the Hudson River side. I think also about how the sun is the original source of all life on this planet. So the "blood red river," is also, in my mind, the river of blood flowing through -- and uniting -- all living things.

But which way does it flow? From the sun to us? Or from us to the sun?

Whichaway, whichaway, that's always the question, isn't it? In another version of this song we find the line: "My baby's left me and I don't know which way to go." I suppose that's really what the song is all about, isn't it? Just another love song, after all.

I've been thinking about that song lately, because it reminds me of the SIWWNFO (Situation In Which We Now Find Ourselves). It's not so much that we're faced with a dilemma, which we are, or a catastrophe, as seems almost inevitable, but that we're torn between completely contradictory and irreconcilable poles. We have to make some very tough decisions, but "we don't know which way to go."

Sun rise in the East, people it goes down in the West,
Hard to tell now, which one will suit you the best.

(to be continued)

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