Mike Roach

I. Cadence

Woke up this mornin’
Feeling like Pete Seeger when he looked like Lizzie Borden
Folklore sold me a soul like Bonnie Parker and a grin like Clyde Barrow
And they drove me home with bullet holes whispering, nibbling van Gogh’s earlobe
The sun and moon distracted her from the epilogue
Dusk and dawn were our rise and fall

The engine is writing letters and the rain is reading them aloud
Shouting, “The undertaker will be the last person to let you down!!”
And “We was then and this be now!”
Do we really want or need to see another soapbox episode?
All the little droplets dread the epilogue
As they sing the gospel of a rise and fall

Judas, in his lifelessness, lives out his loneliness
Hanging paintings in a cemetery museum
And on his tombstone when he buries his legacy alive
Is an epitaph that’ll make you laugh and cry and laugh and cry and laugh and cry
They hired me to write his obituary and the epilogue
His life and death played out like a rise and fall

Saw her smoking dirt from a tin foil hat
She screamed bloody murder and she let me have it
Let her little light shine, raised her blade, said “Goodbye, Charley Patton”
And left my throat a gorgeous disaster
Now it’s getting dark and I can’t seem to read the epilogue
Crimson smudges taste like a rise and fall

II. Memphis Died with Elvis

Sheriff’s department shine runners
Running gypsy kind up into their treehouses
With their necktie nooses tied around branches
Pulling at threads and pulling with pliers
Razor-sharp teeth from the mouths of sheep
Poison ivy crowns resting on the heads of liars
Absconded by wolves in pelts of fleece
This is where the soul of a man comes to die

III. This Machine Kills Free Thought

Forever picked a beautiful hill to die on
Buzzards circle the sunlight in anticipation
Waiting, salivating over someone else’s prey
Remember tomorrow like it happened yesterday
And never present the gift of present tense
Innocence, in a sense
Bloody fingerprints on the piano keys
I pieced myself back together with pieces of you
But I took nothing you’ll miss and I promise to
Return it all when I come back from the point of no return
You’re sentimentally insane about watching me burn
You’re the one who tied me to the stake
But I was able to walk away so
Don’t give it another thought and
Forget yourself in something eternal so you’ll never be forgotten
Open the box and put on the pawn shop diamond ring
Hope my neck doesn’t break so you can watch me swing

IV. Needle in a Needlestack

Liver decaying, salvation fading, they drag me to the guillotine
Selling souvenir transcripts of the trial from the printing press death machine
And in my passing, the man says, “Good luck, but…
Dead stars are only ever so pretty in the dark.
Who do you think you are?”
“I am nobody. How do you intend to kill a man with no body?”
“You’ll pay with your head for what you did.
And we’ll all breathe easy when your breathing ends.”
His laugh is mad and he’s made
As I moaned like a sinner on Revival Day
He cremated me and he’s compensated
With $6 in quarters taken from the coin-operated stockade in town square
Grey clouds gather and rain on the solar-powered electric chair


I. Living in a Van Down by the River

Faust found himself down and with a story to tell
Prostituting his truth to have a story to sell
And without a word sat beneath the tree
To write in pain his train track tragedy

Faust found himself down in Clarksdale
With Legba’s hounds on his trail
A bargain on the run, bought for a broken song and sold
The highways tortured Faust’s poor paid-for soul

Faust finally found his way up to Memphis
With a bottle and a book, coming back from New Orleans
Papa’s rabid dogs ran him down
Into the dirt of the road

Faust found himself buried a few miles out of town
The sky was open any which way he looked around
His eyes rolled back and he knew the blues
When the old man with the crutch came to collect his due

II. Sultana

2 a.m., April 27, eighteen-hundred-sixty-five
Eighteen-hundred dead by sunrise
Riverboat hauling prisoners of war
And news of the death of the commander-in-chief
Battle lines were drawn in the waves
Seven miles north of Memphis, Tennessee
When sweet Sultana went down to the riverbed, up in flames
Leaving men to freeze in the Mississippi or burn with the boat
The weakened soldiers clung to life and clung to one another
And clung to branches on the trees the river had risen over
Water filled their lungs to the point of bursting
And sent visceral shrapnel into their ribcages, heartbreaking

III. Tributaries

If it keeps on raining, the levee’s gonna break
The townspeople all pray to be saved
And the runoff drains into open graves
Levees kicked down by a foot of rain a day

The bars and brothels on Beale Street form a new bluff
Some run up north, some keep with whores and get drunk
Drowning in whiskey and watching the water rise
Looking their lovers in the eyes across the river, 60 miles wide

Holding onto grandma’s wedding rings and a few old family photos
As the whole town drops to a watershed stroke
Bullets and beans are traded for hooch, opium, and coke
Men carve felled trees into boats, bloated corpses float

Conducting an orchestra of deafening thunder and struggling cries
Setting electric sculptures against a soul-swallowing sky
Sitting on the roof of a farmhouse, watching fish and furniture pass by
Dipping toes in the water and singing hymns of the endtimes

IV. Wife Gone on the Funeral Train Blues

I’m going crazy without you here
Bringing gods to their knees and stones to tears
Divert your attention, avert your eyes
I’d swim 2,000 miles of filthy water to meet you on the other side

An apparition presented, the mirror resented
The bride in the hearse, the logical poet demented
I’d do anything for you but I refuse to die
I’m gonna go where you are and bring you back alive

Two parts courage and three parts trust
Don’t look back, something might be gaining on us
I walked with you until the very end
And turned around just in time to watch you disappear again

I sang the blues until my throat bled
My fingertips blistered and the wine went to my head

I broke into hell to undo what the vipers done
I can’t love you in death, as I did in life
I’m losing my breath, but know I tried
Tread through fire to bring you back home
Stress Cardiomyopathy: A Warning Shot, A Trigger Warning
As I stood in front of the mirror carved into the side of a mountain and conducted an interview with an echo, I asked how he sleeps at night. Do you know what he said?
He said, “I don’t. I usually just take an afternoon nap on some train tracks.”
Can you believe that? And he wished me good luck and said something about pretty dead stars in the dark or something…
It might be hypocritical of me (of all people, right?) to say, but I think that guy might have been way off his rocker. He was in charge of the executions — beheadings and electrocutions — and insisted on being called the “Chop ‘Em, Shock ‘Em Robot”.

When asked if I had any last words, I just wanted it noted that I never wrote about blue violets and red roses, that it was always about love, loss, struggle, exploded riverboats, and a particularly destructive flood.


In all seriousness and in the interest of full disclosure, I regret ending my love affair with the moon. I miss watching the cadence of the sun and its dance with my lunar mistress, making love to the silver sliver, menacing in her lunacy.

I’m a raving fucking lunatic.

I miss the times when my insanity was in its infancy. I wish all this didn’t used to keep me up at night, that I wasn’t used to losing sleep, but then again I kinda wish I still did. If I had three wishes, the other two would be to see her again…

I have a tendency to let things crawl under my skin and cast multiple shadows on my psyche. When I go, no one will visit, to sit in a semi-circle, strum guitars, smoke some green, and sing “Kumbaya”. Half of my friends will pray for my fate and my sorry soul to a god I spent the final years of my life fiercely denying; the other half will drink the blackberry wine that worked to so severely deteriorate my mental state and killed my will to meditate.

Gautama Buddha would be so ashamed…


I have worshipped Death as my deity and feared Time as my enemy, and my deity and enemy allowed me to be stupid enough to think you could maybe love me.

Depression is the spirit of prayer and moves me to spend days in bed but never rest. Dear dignified Death, I must trust that you have a plan for me, as you’ve cost me all my loves and passions.

Sometimes it seems the only good these pills could do me would be to put me to sleep more permanently. The validation will sustain me. Give me a legacy. I’ll be more than happy to pay for it.
But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it and burn it when I cross it — honestly, most likely while I’m still on it.


Not that I believe, but there’s no way they’d let me in, even if I could make it to heaven.

Thriving through the self-loathing mouth of arrogance meant to disguise the abhorrence I feel every time I interview that ignorant echo.
Putting these words on paper to cope and saying them into microphones to find some sort of affection that might feel like home.

But fading out and burning away and all those old rock star cliches don’t exactly apply to broken poets, do they?
Here’s hoping…


Through my breakdown, my downfall, my falling apart, I broke hearts and I broke bones (mostly my own) and walked over them all to ascend to my throne.

Dear Death, spare me this Time to which you’ve sentenced me. Throw my poems into the crematorium with me. Let them burn with their bastard father and end as ashes in the river, sent to his deity and saved from his enemy. Give me your promise of peace.

“The poet is dead. Long live the poems.”

One thought on “Mike Roach

  1. Wow. Loving every bit of this. The poems were smooth and words flowed rather nicely. 10/10 would recommend. Keep up the great work Mike!


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