“Bats have no bankers and they do not drink and cannot be arrested and pay no tax and, in general, bats have it made.”

ah, the things Nick make me do


Bukowski was a jerk! Berryman was best!
He wrote like wet papier mache,
went the Hemingway
weirdly on wings and with maximum pain
We call upon the author to explain

as Nick is prone to, he namechecks poets in several songs. in We Call Upon the Author, who is this Berryman? understand he’d been a suicide went the Hemingway, but what about weirdly on wings and with maximum pain ?

it didn’t take long to find out:  poet John Berryman decided to discard his mortal coil by jumping on the Mississippi river from Minneapolis’ Washington avenue bridge one freezing January morning.  he missed the river, hitting first the concrete pier and ending in the mud where he suffocated. I get the maximum pain. I do.

three more songs that reference Berryman:   Stuck Between Stations, Mama Won’t You Keep Them Castles in the Air Burning?, and most striking, John Allyn Smith Sails by Okkervil River, a biography of Berryman that by its end is intertwinned with Sloop John B.


The devil and John Berryman Took a walk together.
They ended up on Washington Talking to the river.
He said I’ve surrounded myself with doctors And deep thinkers.
But big heads with soft bodies Make for lousy lovers.
There was that night that we thought John Berryman could fly.
But he didn’t So he died.
She said You’re pretty good with words But words won’t save your life.

And they didn’t. So he died.
He was drunk and exhausted but he was critically acclaimed and respected.
He loved the Golden Gophers but he hated all the drawn out winters.
He likes the warm feeling but he’s tired of all the dehydration
Most nights were kind of fuzzy But that last night he had total retention.



But I came softly, slowly
Banging me metal drum
Like Berryman
Bed-wet poet fears
That better man drink taller beers



By the second verse, dear friends My head will burst, my life will end
So, I’d like to start this one off by saying “Live and love”
I was young and at home in bed And I was hanging on the words some poem said
In thirty-one I was impressionable I was upsettable
I tried to make my breathing stop, my heart beat slow
So, when my mom and John came in, I would be cold
From a bridge on Washington Avenue, the year of 1972
Broke my bones and skull and it was memorable
It was half a second and I was halfway down
Do you think I wanted to turn back around and teach a class
Where you kiss the ass that I’ve exposed to you
And at the funeral, the University cried at three poems they’d present in place of a broken me
I was breaking in a case of suds
At the brass rail, a fall-down drunk with his tongue torn out and his balls removed
And I knew that my last lines were gone while stupidly I lingered on,
other wise men know when it’s time to go
And so I should, too
And so I fly into the brightest winter sun
Of this frozen town, I’m stripped down to move on
Dear friends, I’m gone
Well, I hear my father fall
And I hear my mother call
And I hear the others all whisper, “Come home”
I’m sorry to go
I loved you all so
But this is the worst trip I’ve ever been on
So, hoist up the John B. sail (Hoist up the John B. sail)
See how the main sail sets (See how the main sail sets)
I’ve folded my heart in my head and I wanna go home
With a book in my hand
In the way I had planned
Well, this is the worst trip I’ve ever been on


I’m starting to read Berryman‘s Dream Songs.

here is Berryman reading from them

the title of this post is from Berryman’s Dream Song 63

Bats have no bankers and they do not drink
and cannot be arrested and pay no tax
and, in general, bats have it made.
Henry for joining the human race is bats,
known to be so, by few them who think,
out of the cave.

Instead of the cave! ah lovely-chilly, dark,
ur-moist his cousins hang in hundreds or swerve
with personal radar,
crisisless, kid. Instead of the cave? I serve,
inside, my blind term. Filthy four-foot lights
reflect on the whites of our eyes.

He then salutes for sixty years of it
just now a one of valor and insights,
a theatrical man,
O scholar & Legionnaire who as quickly might
have killed as cast you. Stormed with years
he tranquil commands and appears.


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11 thoughts on ““Bats have no bankers and they do not drink and cannot be arrested and pay no tax and, in general, bats have it made.”

  1. I am so exasperated!!! My audio is not working. I checked all my speakers and they appear to be plugged in. I am going to shut down the ol’ pooter and restart the bugger in the morning.
    It will have all night to think about the errors of it’s ways.

    I did enjoy watching NC even though I couldn’t hear him!

    :P
    See ya in the morning!

    • that’s weird. can you get audio if you are in YouTube.com? check your systray (right-click on the lower right-hand corner of the screen) and check that the audio hasn’t been muted.

      the behavior of NC!NC!NC! in that video is much the same as when cranky and I got to see him. same tour.

  2. John Berryman… one of my favorites of my friend’s Halloween costumes. Each year she dresses up as a different writer who committed suicide. She did quite a respectable Berryman impersonation.

  3. “She did quite a respectable Berryman impersonation.”

    before or after he hit the concrete?

    I hope there are pictures floating around.
    who is she planning for this Halloween?

  4. When I first moved to Minneapolis, a group of people took me out for drinks and afterwards showed me the Washington Avenue bridge and the spot where John Berryman jumped to his death. They thought it was hilarious, especially as they told me he never hit the water, but I was overwhelmed with sadness. I had just read his autobiographical novel, Recovery, and it seemed so hopeful. His suicide was so unnecessary, so undeserved.

    Homage to Mistress Bradstreet is my favorite, but the Dreamsongs are lovely to read out loud. And thank you for this post. I was thinking no one was going to post Nick Cave music on WP.

    • “They thought it was hilarious, especially as they told me he never hit the water, but I was overwhelmed with sadness.”

      so am I. and so is Nick, “weirdly on wings and with maximum pain”. it was horrifying.
      I’ve glanced at “Homage…” and backed out. slowly. ’tis be what English Ph.D. dissertations be made of.
      I am seriously digging the Okkervil River tune. not just a namecheck but John B.’s entire life. and now I’ll never be able to hear The Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B.” without thinking of Berryman.

      P.S.: gosh, your Mpls. friends were assholes. at least that one time

      • They weren’t really friends, they were some people I met at work, and I was lonely and feeling lost at the time. But not long after the Washington Ave. bridge incident, we went to another bar to drink, and while I was in the restroom, they took off without me. It was below freezing that night and I didn’t have my car. Luckily I knew the phone number to the local cab company, but I stopped speaking to those people after that. They told me I didn’t have a sense of humor. I said I didn’t have any respect for Minnesotans.

        Now that I think of it, I can understand why Berryman jumped off the bridge.

  5. @HG: those folks were hellbent in disproving the stereotype of Minnesotans as kind, respectful and thoughtful

  6. Ok, my audio is working fine after the reboot!
    Thanks for the suggestions, though! My leetle speaker guy in the bottom right hand corner wasn’t muted, so the puter had a brain fart I guess!
    Now to listen to the videos~!

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