I have dueling versions of Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands on my iPod, Bob Dylan’s and Joan Baez’s. For a long time I only listened to hers, but in fact I prefer his. She has a distinctive, beautiful voice, whereas he just has a distinctive voice. But he’s also got personality, and that piercingly sad harmonica!
Ok, so what's another reason to love the song? Because it is a list poem that reminds me of the French surrealists, that’s why.
Take this, from the song:
With your sheets like metal and your belt like lace,
And your deck of cards missing the jack and the ace,
And your basement clothes and your hollow face,
Who among them can think he could outguess you?
With your silhouette when the sunlight dims
Into your eyes where the moonlight swims,
And your match-book songs and your gypsy hymns (etc)
Then this, from Benjamin Peret’s “Here:”
my ghetto of black iris my crystal ear
my opal snail my mosquito made out of air
my bird-of-paradise mattress my hair of black foam
my exploded grave my rain of red grasshoppers
my flying island my turquoise grape (etc)
Then this, from André Breton’s “Free Union:”
My wife whose hair is a brush fire
Whose thoughts are summer lightning
Whose waist is an hourglass
Whose waist is the waist of an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger
Whose mouth is a bright cockade with the fragrance of a star of the first magnitude
Whose teeth leave prints like the tracks of white mice over snow
Whose tongue is made out of amber and polished glass
Whose tongue is a stabbed wafer (etc)
See! I told you.