Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

God Bless Johnny Cash

This is my first attempt at a video poem. I haven’t made a video for fun in 16 years. Perhaps it was the time spent working on film sets in the early ’90s, but I lost interest somewhere along the way. The inspiration for this came from Christine Swint’s “Anybody’s Child” and  Dave Bonta’s post on poets and technology over at Very Like a Whale. In the comments I mentioned that I have a film degree and probably should take a crack at doing a video poem sometime.

Then, this evening, I was about to post this poem along with audio of me reading. The poem started with some pictures I had taken of my guitar with the iphone Hipstamatic ap, and I thought it would be cool to put one of the pictures up. Next thing I knew, I was building this video.

The “music” is something I recorded a few years back by overdubbing several tracks of me playing my guitar (well, really I was mostly playing the amplifier) and my wife’s bass. I’m not sure if it’s too loud, but I was trying to submerge the voice a little bit without losing too much clarity.

Here’s the text of the poem. The title is from a bumper sticker I saw twice last weekend while driving through the hill country outside Austin:

God Bless Johnny Cash

I drove to the river;
it followed me home.

Sweated the night surrounded
by lesser freshwater demons.

Sang pelagic chantys
heard second hand

from deep-gulleted
birds plucking a thunder bass.

The earth ate the moon,
broke the fall of morning.

Twisted roads passed tallgrass hills
that can’t remember trees.

In the morning, I prayed
the dusty pick-up truck petition,

God bless Johnny Cash.


  1. Wow! What a terrific video! The music and photos add a whole different dimension to the poem. A much different experience than reading the text. The video has a much moodier, sort of film noir feel. The poem on it’s own is more like a song, or a prayer.

    • Thanks for your response, Christine. I really like the idea of video being able to take a poem somewhere new and unexpected. Doing this opened my eyes to things that I didn’t know where there.

  2. brilliant, everything works so well together and there is a wonderful moody feel to the video.

  3. Boy, that was quick! And need I say, a very impressive first offering.

    • Thanks, Dave. Once I started thinking about it, it came quickly. Such is sudden inspiration, I suppose. Fortunately, I didn’t have to learn the tools, which made it something I could create fairly quickly as I’m used to editing fast.

  4. Oh, and I thought the music was just right.

  5. you did him proud.

    and I love this:
    The earth ate the moon,
    broke the fall of morning.

  6. James
    I love the video and reading the poem alone.
    They both evoke two different feelings.

    • Thanks, Pamela. It’s interesting how doing the video can change the poem. I guess it’s the same with music videos.

  7. Very nice!

    I like the poem bare naked words on the page, especially the tall grass hills that don’t remember trees. But the fragmented abstract guitar visuals and the distant memory music wrapped around the call letters of the station, provide a matrix for your voice to float in, ready for the morning prayer blessing the man in black – wonderful!

    • Thanks, Paul. The letters are actually the transmission display in my wife’s car. I like the idea of them as call letters, though. It could be a station dedicated to road music.

  8. Once again, I am late to the praise party here, but damnation this video is awesome…I think I am going to post it on my Facebook, if you have no objections…

    • Thanks, Mark. Feel free to post away. I didn’t realize you could post videos on Facebook. Maybe I’ll post it to my wall too 😉

      • Use the URL and add it to your FB page as a link, then write a comment (or not) and post away! That’s how you share YouTube video’s on FB….or one way, at any rate.

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