empty eyes, blackened
fingernails, frayed cuffs, alone
throng gets down and dirty
n.b. Nashville, Tennessee, ‘The Recording Capital of the World, (as I heard a man in a check shirt, jeans, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat label the place to two men in check shirts, jeans, cowboy boots and cowboy hats), is a busy place on a Saturday around noon.
It is mighty crowded. The sidewalks too narrow to accommodate the people. The shops too small for the lines of customers. The Johnny Cash Museum fulsome of people buying tickets, lining up to enter its exhibition rooms, queues of others waiting to have a gander around the souvenir store.
The air is filled with the low throb of traffic congestion; the whoopin’ and a hollerin’ of open wagon loads of young-acting women and men drinking heavily. Every building that isn’t a boot store, or souvenir shop is a bar with a stage that positions a duo, a trio, or a full band with their backs to the sidewalk. The bass drums and cymbals, distorted guitars and amplified voices tumble, conflictingly onto the street.
All around groups of friends, couples, families, stag and hen parties, step around each other trying to agree where to go next, what to do, or hesitate to check their party retains some coherent form.
In the bigger bars, several storeys of open windows and roof top terraces are full of people standing and drinking, or sitting and eating, often with bands bashing out popular songs which encourage customers to try singing along.
A plane passing close overhead on its landing flight path cannot be heard. If you add a couple of ambulance sirens, or a police vehicle’s whining to the cacophony, then you have a good idea of the unholy racket. Music City indeed!
Well, getting back to the senryū above, in the heart of this overwhelming nonsense, there are some very isolated people. They carry all their belongings in a plastic bag, or even a suitcase or two.
They are not of this tourist party world. The crowds so loud and busy there is no hope of being heard if asking for handouts. These sun-weathered ghosts just wander around, or sit in the not so rare boarded-up doorways, or just stand and stare, sometimes mumbling to themselves, maybe fumbling a rolling tobacco cigarette.
Hieronymus Bosch would have loved Nashville. On a Saturday lunchtime, a setting for the centre panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights; at night the setting fit for Hell.