Friday, 27 July 2012

The Bum on the Rods and the Bum on the Plush

Just heard an old recording from U. Utah Phillips reading some poems. - He read a kind of radical
socialist poem by a hobo (traveling worker) named Frying Pan Jack ' The Bum on the Rods and the Bum on the Plush' - I hadn't heard it for years but I used to recite it all the time when I was in my late teens. - I sort of left off with my praise and admiration of lifelong homeless wanderers after spending some time near New York buying them sandwiches and chatting with them. - I heard a lot of deeply disturbing and sad stories in that time and did not meet any enlightened poetic people who saw themselves as free.

Nonetheless, it is a lovely radical uprising poem and extremely timely with the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor.

In the poem the 'Bum on the rods' is a hobo who rides freight trains to get from job to job. Riding the rods is a way to ride on freight trains without getting inside or on top. This was common in the depression era when freight trains had axel rods that a hobo could climb on top of. It was extremely dangerous and killed many people but it was easy to get on and off in a hurry to escape the police.

The Bum on the Rods and the Bum on the Plush

The bum on the rods is hunted down
As the enemy of mankind
The other is driven around to his club
Is feted, wined and dined.
And they who curse the bum on the rods
As the essence of all that is bad,
Will greet the other with a winning smile,
And extend the hand so glad.

The bum on the rods is a social flea
Who gets an occasional bite,
The bum on the plush is a social leech,
blood sucking day and night.
The bum on the rods is a load so light
That his weight we scarcely feel,
But it takes the labor of dozen of men
To furnish the other a meal.

As long as you sanction the bum on the plush
The other will always be there,
But rid yourself of the bum on the plush
And the other will disappear.
Then make an intelligent, organized kick
Get rid of the weights that crush.
Don't worry about the bum on the rods,
Get rid of the bum on the plush.

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