by Nick Bridwell (Customer Service)
Sunday Morning Coming Down
About half of the childhood days I spent with my Grandpa Murphy were devoted to the pursuit of knowledge. We discussed the works of Charles Dickens and Sir Walter Scott. We studied the inner workings of clock towers and catapults. But the other half? Music!
Grandpa played the records of Roger Miller and the Irish ballads of Paddy Reilly, and he patiently explained why there wasn’t a lot of cooking in Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant”. But the man we loved the most was Johnny Cash. Johnny Cash was a storyteller, and I probably owe a lot of my love for writing to that beautiful childhood trinity of grandfather, grandson, and musical legend. I can commune now with my late grandfather by listening to the Man in Black. His lessons are echoed in Johnny’s songs–alive in every chord and in every chorus.
Here’s a little poem I’ve written in honor of Johnny and Grandpa Murphy:
The Demon & Johnny Cash
by Nick Bridwell
It was a perfect Sunday morning
for the wingèd angels to adore,
when the demon Gnarl came a-knock-
knock-knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
With the humanoid body of a spotted frog
and the huge head of a furry pug,
Gnarl said, “God, you’ve made a mistake.
Now come on out, you big old lug!”
From somewhere ‘round the corner,
past the podium and pearly gates,
came a Man in Black, determined
to set the Good Lord’s record straight.
“Now, son, you know for certain,
they’ll never let your kind in.
You’ve somehow missed salvation
and there’s drool on your puppy chin.”
It had taken Gnarl quite a long time
to climb the steps from down so far.
He wasn’t going to be deterred
by the Man in Black or his guitar.
“Get your black-clad self out of here,
or else, man, you’re in danger.
I’d sooner eat a bag of foots
than take advice from a stranger.”
“Now, come on, kid, and tell me
just what you’re doing here.
God doesn’t make mistakes.
Let’s make that one thing clear.”
Seeing that the guitar player
wouldn’t leave well-enough alone,
Gnarl turned around and sat right down
and in his voice he changed his tone.
“Just today I’ve gone to Earth
for my first assignment undercover.
And what of all things did I witness?
The separation of two lovers!
And if there is a God up here
who cares a thing for human souls,
I’d bet the biggest farm in Hell
he’s boggled up these lovers’ roles.”
“Tell me all about these folks
who you believe belong together,”
said the stranger as he strummed
notes on his guitar as light as a feather.
“Well I don’t quite remember their names
but I know they met at age eleven,
and at that time they made a vow
they’d love through life and then through heaven.
But what did happen at age twenty?
The boy was wounded in war and found another lady.
As for the sweet girl she married another, too,
who offered her a home and a baby.”
“Well, what happened next?
Please tell this old strummer.
I must admit this tale right here
so far sounds like a mighty bummer.”
“I don’t know, does it matter?”
Gnarl snarled and yelled.
“There’s nothing worse on Heaven or Earth
than love that goes to Hell!”
The Man in Black strummed
first one chord and then another,
“You demons sure do get
such tunnel vision, brother.
You see, God’s plan is sort of like
building a Cadillac one piece at a time.
You’d never understand each piece of the puzzle,
unless you had designed the assembly line.
That man that went to war was your grandfather
who went and married your dear grandmother.
That sweet girl you’re so saddened by,
well she wed and gave birth unto another.
And when these four friends met
at picnics and at Sunday school,
the two couples’ firstborns fell in love,
and later they gave birth to you.
It seems to me that you’ve gone
far into your family’s past
and whadda you know, it’s gone to show
that even some good love doesn’t last.
I know it’s hard to see the big picture
when you only get a few short days,
but trust me, son, I’ve learned myself,
the Lord works in mysterious ways.”
“So if those young folks had married,
I would not have even lived at all?
I tell you, pal, it’s a miracle,
that God gave life to me at all.
But if this is the final word
and what you say is true,
we’ve got to trust in your man God
to see this whole plan through.
And meanwhile, I’m a demon
stuck in hell for killing frogs
and accidentally backing over
my own precious, fat pet dog?”
“You’re not dead at all, kid.
You’re only in a deep, deep sleep.
If you want to go home, quit yappin’.
And my God, man, quit counting sheep!
There’s still time on Earth
to save your unwashed soul!
Go get Baptized by a preacher,
and take more Sunday morning strolls.
Sometimes you’ll fall in rings of fire
and turn away from God’s clear signs.
But keep the Good Lord in your heart
and go out there and walk the line!”
“And who are you to come up here
and tell me all these things?
You’re just a Man in Black.
You haven’t any angel’s wings!”
Right then and there, the stranger
ditched his coat as black as ash.
Bright wings of white filled the sky,
as he said, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”