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Blood Oranges

(Tom Russell)

It was an old hotel in Morocco
Caruso sang through the walls
Beat North African hipsters
Were muttering outside in the halls
An American waits for his interpreter-guide
Caffeine makes his hands itch and shake
She enters the room and calls with her eyes
Like a snake charmer summons the snake

"Blood Oranges, a copper buys you ten.
Come and see the dancing clown who lives with the Blue Men"

He said, "I came here to study the language
Of a very rare nomadic tribe"
She chortled and clucked and hissed through her teeth
And motioned him to follow her outside
He wondered about the scars on her forehead
And the secrets behind her dark veil
As she led him out through the walls of the city
Through the moonlight on an old camel trail

They came upon a circle of nomads
Camped far from the lights of the town
Blue men with scars and malarial eyes
And teeth that were pointed. . . filed down
He said: "These are the people I've been searching for,
This is more than I ever could have hoped!"
As they threw him down on a blanket
And tied him up with a hand-braided rope

They cut out his tongue and blinded his eyes
With coals from a cous-cous fire
Tied empty tin cans to his arms and his legs
That rattled on long copper wires
Now he's forgotten his name and why he came to the desert
As they lead him through oasis and town
And the people stare, throw coins and laugh wildly
At the Blue Men and their white dancing clown.

(dedicated to Paul Bowles)

from the Tom Russell "Box of Visions" CD, 1993

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