Milton on Mars

Another new song, really a complete rewrite and rearrangement based on a song I originally wrote for a creative writing class in 1973. I was a beginner then. Only snatches of 2 or 3 phrases from that early attempt have survived. And musically it’s nothing like the original. Better now. So many other things I wrote then are buried and gone, but with this one, though I knew it wasn’t good enough in its original form, something kept knocking on my door. It’s all a mystery to me. A live video recording coming soon.

Milton was a miner of the mountains up on Mars.
Waterproof on the edge of the roof with his banjo and guitars.
In the mad Montgomery moonlight, he’d howl the whole night through,
And if you asked wherefore or why, he’d be like this to you:

Well he’d say:
Sing me Jimmy Rodgers or an old Hank Williams song.
You might see eternity, but I’ll last twice as long.
Life is naught but shadows, a few honkytonks and bars.
I’ll rest my bones in a vale of stones in the mountains—up on Mars.

Met him at the crossroads once on the downside edge of town.
A freight train in the distance, a high and lonesome sound.
A guitar strapped across his back, a banjo on his knees,
Naked as an angel in the wind above the trees.

And he said:
Sing me Jimmy Rodgers or an old Hank Williams song.
You might see eternity, but I’ll last twice as long.
Life is naught but shadows, a few honkytonks and bars.
I’ll rest my bones in a vale of stones in the mountains—up on Mars.

Never saw him after, but I ponder him a lot.
I count the years, the tears and fears, and I down another shot.
You may say it’s senseless to wonder when I’m dry
Why hello’s so much harder than whispering good-bye.

And I say:
Sing me Jimmy Rodgers or an old Hank Williams song.
You might see eternity, but I’ll last twice as long.
Life is naught but shadows, a few honkytonks and bars.
I’ll rest my bones in a vale of stones in the mountains—up on Mars.

5 May 2020 (Updated 30 May 2020)

Sweet John Prine

John_PrineI’ve written and recorded a new song for the great John Prine, who died from the coronavirus on April 7. John has been one of the most important influences on my songwriting, since I first discovered his music in 1973. We have lost a national treasure. My song is about more than John. It’s also an attempt to wrestle with some of my feelings during the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown. Have a listen through this YouTube video. If you like it, the song is available for streaming at all the major outlets. Add it to your library and stay well!

 

“Sweet John Prine (Stuck Inside Bucyrus With the COVID Blues Again”

Sweet John Prine
(Stuck Inside Bucyrus with the COVID Blues Again)

I woke up this morning to the sound of something broken.
I rubbed my eyes and scanned the skies,
‘Cause it seemed like God had spoken.
Sometimes you just can’t figure what the shouting’s all about.
The ball looks fat as you swing the bat,
But it’s three strikes and you’re out.

They all want me to hurry,
And I tell ‘em, “Just a minute.”
I hate to make ‘em worry,
But my heart just isn’t in it.
I’m standing at the crossroads, and I’m waiting for a sign,
‘Cause I don’t know how I can make it now
In a world without John Prine.

Well the governor’s gone plum crazy and I’m stranded in Bucyrus.
We were doin’ fine, up and down the line,
Then Happy New Year! Have some virus!
Now I got me a list of questions, but I don’t know who to ask.
But tell me, Ace, should I trust your face,
If you refuse to wear a mask?

They all want me to hurry,
And I tell ‘em, “Just a minute.”
I hate to make ‘em worry,
But my heart just isn’t in it.
I’m standing at the crossroads, feeling lonesome for a sign,
And I still don’t know if I can make it go
In a world without John Prine.

I’ll do everything you tell me, if you’ll just provide a reason,
And I promise you, if you see me through,
I’ll be better for next season.
The clock says close to midnight, but I don’t think I’m gonna sleep.
As the preacher moans, just rock my bones,
And I’ll count what I can’t keep.

They all want me to hurry,
And I tell ‘em, “Just a minute.”
I hate to make ‘em worry,
But my heart just isn’t in it.
Now I’ve had enough of waiting, there ain’t gonna be no sign,
I’ll be better now. I’ll get by somehow
If I remember sweet John Prine.
Yes, I’m better now. I’ll get by somehow
If I remember sweet John Prine.

Copyright © 2020 by Michael Kim Roos

Reading Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms

Roos-hr-139x210My book Reading Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, co-authored with Robert W. Lewis, was published by Kent State University Press in June 2019.

Description:
A close analysis and commentary on Hemingway’s great novel of love, war, and ideas.

In this comprehensive guide, Lewis and Roos reveal how A Farewell to Arms represents a complex alchemy of Hemingway’s personal experience as a Red Cross ambulance driver in 1918, his extensive historical research of a time period and terrain with which he was personally unfamiliar, and the impact of his vast reading in the great works of 19th-century fiction. Ultimately, Lewis and Roos assert, Hemingway’s great novel is not simply a story of love and war, as most have concluded, but an intricate novel of ideas exploring the clash of reason and faith and deep questions of epistemology.

The commentary also delves deeply into the roots of controversy surrounding the novel’s treatment of gender issues through the characters of Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley. Catherine, they argue, is far more than an object of love; she is a real feminist heroine who is responsible for Frederic’s maturation in developing a capacity for true love.

Written in clear and accessible prose that will appeal to scholars and Hemingway neophytes alike, Reading Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is the most sweeping guide yet available to Hemingway’s finest novel and contributes to a richer understanding of the writer’s entire body of work.

You can order it from any of the following links:
Kent State University Press
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Praise for the book:
Reading Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms can certainly stand proudly
alongside the preceding volumes in the Reading Hemingway series. The editorshave provided us with a highly readable presentation of facts, interpretations,and sources. It is an immense endeavor, an incredible resource, and a fitting tribute to one of Ernest Hemingway’s most enduring masterpieces.”
–Stacey Guill, The Hemingway Review

Reading Hemingway’s A Farwell to Arms deserves a place alongside
Hemingway’s masterpiece third novel. Lewis and Roos’ guide and commentary will reveal the hidden seven-eighths of AFTA’s iceberg like no other critical glossary extant.”
–Ricardo Landeiro, Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature

“Lewis and Roos offer detailed and well researched comment on a very extensive array of pertinent foreground and background topics, making this the ultimate book of footnotes on the Hemingway’s classic novel A Farewell to Arms. In addition, however, this volume still has an engaging and well developed thesis regarding the novel’s presentation of the faith/religious view of life versus the rational/scientific view. It can be used as a reference book, or it can be read straight through if you are already familiar with the novel. Maps and photos are included. This is an admirably complete package. If you have shelf space for just one book on A Farewell to Arms, this is the book.”
–David Anderson

My song “Caporetto” was inspired by the novel. Watch a YouTube video of the song here.
My song “Unfinished Church” was inspired by another of Hemingway’s great novels, The Sun Also Rises. Watch its video here.

Dark and Scarlet Moon (For John McCain)

YouTube video.

Listen on SoundCloud

Seems like all is ashes, dust, and sadness
Whatever’s on the stove is way past done
All the minions marching to the madness
Whatever’s good and true is on the run
Masked men with machine guns in the garden
A pirate ship at bay in the lagoon
Desperate people praying for a pardon
Underneath a dark and scarlet moon

Another day, another hero fallen,
Who is there to stand among the brave?
Who is there to hear the wounded calling?
Who will lay a wreath upon the grave?
Someone sang a hymn so wise and truthful
I’d sing it but I can’t recall the tune
Everybody busy looking youthful
Underneath a dark and scarlet moon

Somewhere there’s a child so warm and tender
Wrapped up in her mother’s loving arms
Somewhere there’s someone who won’t surrender
To the power and the greed and false alarms
The Midnight Special standing at the station
Conductor say it leaving here real soon
Must be some way out of this damnation
Underneath a dark and scarlet moon

MKR
8/28-9/1/18

Copyright © 2018 by Michael Kim Roos

Rich Man

Listen on SoundCloud: Rich Man

I am a rich man, I take what I want,
From Colorado, Tennessee, and Vermont.
I made a fortune in South African mines,
Been round the world and slept with all kinds.

Chorus:
Blow up the moon, stir up the stars,
Ride on a rocket, take Venus and Mars
Silk stockings, high heels, and cigars
Ride on a rocket, take Venus and Mars

I am a rich man, I drink what I need.
When I make war, it’s you who must bleed.
Why should I worry when I poison the sky?
I won’t be breathing any air when I die.

Chorus

I am a rich man, I dance when I please.
You see me comin’, better get on your knees.
I own the sun, I own the fuel and the breeze,
Purple mountains, green valleys, blue seas.

Chorus

I’ll tell you something every senator knows,
I use their hair and their skin for my clothes.
I take their mistresses, their kids and their wives,
Cut out their hearts and eat ’em alive.

Chorus

I am a rich man, it’s what I deserve.
You want to stop me but you ain’t got the nerve.
You save the whales and you drink your green tea,
But deep inside you want to be me.

Chorus

12/24/13