Friday, June 17, 2011

My "You Give Love a Bad Name": "I Drifted Once"

I once heard Jon Bon Jovi say that he was fortunate to have written his signature title early in his career.  He was talking about "You Give Love a Bad Name," and he referred to it as his "Born to Run."  Now, he is a Springsteen fan.  I, it so happens, am a Bon Jovi fan.  So we're all friends here.  But I remember thinking a couple of things about his comment:

1)  Most artists who have a "Born to Run" in large measure NECESSARILY released it early in their career.  The literal "Born to Run" was on Springsteen's 3rd album.  Bon Jovi's figurative "Born to Run" was on their 3rd album.

This phenomenon of "early 'Born to Run' or no 'Born to Run' at all" (commonly referred to as "the EBTRONBTRAA principle" by music historians) makes sense: for an artist to have a "signature tune", they usually need to have a lengthy career; in order to have lengthy career, they usually need to make a splash early with a big hit.  If they don't have a lengthy career, they're just a flash-in-the-pan or a one-hit wonder; if they don't make a splash early with a big hit, they're probably not going to be around long enough to have a career worth defining.

Sometimes, a band might release a tune worthy of being their "Born to Run" later in their careers, but purists (snobs?) may gawk at the idea of considering the recent tune on par with the de facto "Born to Run" of said band.  For example, if Bon Jovi had written and released "Keep the Faith" on their 2nd or 3rd album, that may have been their "Born to Run".  In my humble opinion, that would actually make a better "Born to Run" for Bon Jovi than "You Give Love a Bad Name" does, but that might just be because I value musical distinctiveness and lyrical depth in a signature tune.

2)  Even taking into account the EBTRONBTRAA principle, I wasn't so sure that "You Give Love a Bad Name" WAS his "Born to Run."  I probably would have given that distinction to "Livin' on a Prayer."

3)  I wasn't so sure that Bon Jovi HAD a "Born to Run".  Which is OK.  KJax, you reading?  Don't be mad.  It's OK not to have a "Born to Run."  Not everyone does.

It also might be that there are tiers of signature songs.  Maybe only a handful of artists have a true signature tune that is recognized and agreed upon by fans and critics alike.

Since songs and poems are only kind of the same, an aspiring, unpublished poet-blogger can't rightly claim to have a "Born to Run" at all, especially since deciding something like that really isn't up to him anyway, but his legions of fans.  So, not having a "Born to Run", we'll call this selection "my 'You Give Love a Bad Name'", which I do fully soaking in the irony of even making THAT comparison.  I really am a fan of Bon Jovi, and he seems like a down-to-earth, sincere sort of dude.  And he likes Springsteen.  The title of this post is pretty much me being silly--if anyone knows Bon Jovi, please pass on my propensity for dry wit and self-deprecating humor.

Anyway, according to me, "I Drifted Once" is my signature poem.  Technically, it was my first real attempt at using rhythm and rhyme in the same poem.  Thematically, it was one of my first true post-conversion poems.  Taking intangibles into account, it felt truly inspired: I wrote the first 4 lines, then got stuck for about a year.  Then I suddenly revisited it, and wrote the rest in an evening, which is pretty unheard of for me.  And though it was very special to me, upon completing it, I immediately felt like I had not written it at all, except that it was my fingers typing the words.  I emphasize "immediately" because the strange separation I feel from it is not due to the passing of time.  Rather, I believed then as I do now that God had this poem and spun it through my spirit and experiences so that I may enjoy it as an affirmation from him, and steward it as a testimony TO him.

          I Drifted Once

I drifted towards the ethereal light, praying to be blinded
Or maybe catch some surreal sight, so I’d always be reminded
Of what it’s like to live and love, and feel that fire inside me
And only cry to the skies above for a caring hand to guide me
Through this rusted, haunted wasteland that tortures those who think.
I’d been gagging in this quicksand, choking, hoping that I’d sink
And slowly, surely, rot and die in this gutter’s cobblestone
That scraped and laughed and burned like lye on my soul that ached alone.
But the light, that night, firmly pulled me, with its fingers laced with fire
Passed this pyrite, to a gold sea, where waves reached to lift me higher
To an ever-present promised land, draped by this dying nation’s veil.
I rubbed my eyes with shaking hands and watched the focused truth prevail
Like a beacon, from a cloud of dust—its clear, bold light scorched my shell.
The freedom it flashed commanded trust, but my cynical brain couldn’t tell
If it was real—that silhouette—I crumbled beneath the choices.
No half-ways and no regrets, but I couldn’t sort the voices.
Which one was life, and which one death, and which one would erase my sins?
Then by grace I felt an angel’s breath, and then I died, and lived again.
Finally, the truth would suffice to burn out society’s lies.
It took a cross to smash my vice and a spike to open my eyes.
Now the days and months fade into years—and my broken chains dangle free.
And I still long to taste the tears I cried that night I chose to see

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