Favourite Poems – Visions of Johanna – Bob Dylan

I can just imagine that young Bob Dylan, riding the bucking bronco of fame, alone in the night in the Chelsea Hotel with the old heat pipes gurgling. Little boy lost reeling from love affairs with Suze and Joan, now with Sarah, trying to come to terms with expectations, fame, love and life while going cold turkey to escape his amphetamine addiction. Reevaluating his life.

That bronco uis giving him a tough ride but he’s hanging on. He’s doing his own thing.

The poem contains some stanzas that really connected with me:

‘Inside the museums, infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while’

What is our life when put in context to infinity? How absurd is the concept of everlasting life – wouldn’t that be the ultimate in boredom?

Then I always found this stanza ironic given Bob’s later dalliance with saccharine sweet, vacuous country music:

The country music station plays soft
But there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off

Life’s all a surreal game we play, full of cultural absurdities, religious nonsense and politrical intrigue, in which love and death pull us around by the strings of our sanity and our mind, if it ever engages, reels.

Lost love is a bitch.

Visions of Johanna

Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it
And Louise holds a handful of rain, temptin’ you to defy it
Lights flicker from the opposite loft
In this room the heat pipes just cough
The country music station plays soft
But there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off
Just Louise and her lover so entwined
And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind

In the empty lot where the ladies play blindman’s bluff with the key chain
And the all-night girls they whisper of escapades out on the “D” train
We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight
Ask himself if it’s him or them that’s insane
Louise, she’s all right, she’s just near
She’s delicate and seems like the mirror
But she just makes it all too concise and too clear
That Johanna’s not here
The ghost of ‘lectricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place

Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously
And when bringing her name up
He speaks of a farewell kiss to me
He’s sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all
Muttering small talk at the wall while I’m in the hall
How can I explain?
It’s so hard to get on
And these visions of Johanna, they kept me up past the dawn

Inside the museums, infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles
See the primitive wallflower freeze
When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
Hear the one with the mustache say, “Jeez, I can’t find my knees”
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel

The peddler now speaks to the countess who’s pretending to care for him
Sayin’, “Name me someone that’s not a parasite and I’ll go out and say a prayer for him”
But like Louise always says
“Ya can’t look at much, can ya man?”
As she, herself, prepares for him
And Madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler, he now steps to the road
He writes ev’rything’s been returned which was owed
On the back of the fish truck that loads
While my conscience explodes
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain

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