Born To Be Blue

Title: Born To Be Blue
: Tony Moffeit
Genre: Poetry, Trade Paper, 6X9
Publisher: Lummox Press (PO Box 5301 San Pedro, CA 90733-5301)
ISBN: 978-1-929878-85-7

Publishing Date: Oct. 2011

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Watch Tony perform "Luminous Animal"

 "I just reread the collection and am still blown away by its explosive nature." Lawrence Gladeview


Tony Moffeit’s poetry is blues poetry, jazz poetry, Southwest poetry, and outlaw poetry. His book POETRY IS DANGEROUS, THE POET IS AN OUTLAW, from Floating Island Publications in 1995, contains outlaw poems and essays. His outlaw poetry and essays continue on two online websites: Metropolis: Outlaw Poetry and Free Jazz Network and St. Vitus Press and Poetry Review. His book

PUEBLO BLUES was the winner of the Jack Kerouac Award from Cherry Valley Editions in 1986. Two other Cherry Valley Editions publications are LUMINOUS ANIMAL and NEON PEPPERS. He was the recipient of an NEA creative writing fellowship in 1992. In

2004 Moffeit, along with Todd Moore, founded the Outlaw Poetry Movement. He is also a blues singer and songwriter and his blues music is featured on the 2008 CD, OUTLAW BLUES REVOLUTION, from DigiVintage Records. He is the author of over twenty-five

books and chapbooks, many of them featuring poems with the characters Hank Williams and Billy the Kid. In 1997, he was the recipient of the Denver Press Club’s first annual Thomas Hornsby Ferril Poetry Prize. Moffeit has two websites: and




I’ve known Tony Moffeit since the early 1980’s, in Denver, when we’d run across one another at readings or other gatherings. We were both finding our way as writers at the time, and I, for one, had a young voice that was rough, raw, trying to get at real. We were trying to separate the truth from the chaff. One of the first times I heard him up close was at some third floor converted minimalist red brick Kerouac-esque warehouse space in downtown Denver, a new loft-type affair, suitable for performance. I was with Ed Ward; we were both wondering who this cat was, dressed in shiny leather, banging on the bongos like some incantatory, skinny white shadow. He had his voice down and it was a good sound. He believed what he was doing and we believed him when he did. While the rest of us were learning to emote cool, Tony was blowing, scatting, chanting, rhyming hot. It was coming from some vast subterranean spirit place where the blues get form and climb up the burning urgency of the voice straight up to the street. I quickly got the Pentecostal suggestion of his rhythms: this man could sing. He conjured Ray Charles, he conjured Mick Jagger…but with poetry! You could hear traces of San Francisco street poet/singer Jack Micheline, or Kell Robertson, traces of Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues.



the click click click of the turn signal as i head south

from colorado springs to pueblo my writing pad on

the steering wheel and i write while i drive i like to write

while balancing a writing pad on the steering wheel

i like to write while driving on the highway i like to write

with the lights out i like to write in the dark i like to

head south with a pen in my hand i like to let the

poem write me i like to let the ghosts take over

i turn and head south on the interstate where truckers

fly by in a swarm of lights like pilots and i hear a

train whistle coming from the train tracks that long

lonesome moan that was caught in the voice of hank

williams on that backstreet called the blues i want

to find that backstreet that jukebox those shadows

find that bar where the only light is neon and the dark

is my second skin i seek the ghosts because the ghosts

are all i have left o pitch black night measured by

the pain made pure by the poison leave me alone to

let me learn how to breathe again i pass a truck and

continue south my hand cramping from holding the

writing tablet against the steering wheel too long

and the lights off to the side are swarming like bees

as i scribble in the darkness words i will translate

in the light the more important lines i write twice

so i might more easily decipher them

were you born for it you have left yourself to

become another were you born for it you have left

yourself to become a phantom leaving and

returning leaving and returning i don’t even

feel like i’m real anymore i don’t even feel like

i’m real anymore and my words are

scribbled on the steering wheel and my words are

caught in the effortlessness of the motion and my ink

is black as the night and my tablet is white and the

lights are streaming all around me and i am the

dark center of it all to turn to burn to leave

to return it’s road time it’s night time and the

motion is taking me deeper into the darkness

there’s a hunger that must be fed there’s a gamble

on the raw edge were you born for it to leave to

return like the buffalo or like the snake a distant

relative of the dinosaur i want to write all night

hunched over the steering wheel blasting through

the blackness the ghosts are out there i want to talk

with them i want to dance with them the only rhythm

i want is the rhythm of the road the only sleep

i want is the trance of the highway and now it is night

and night alone and the pen is moving with other fingers

where does that take you talking in tongues with the

velocity of drums i want to be that hired hand that

hired gun i want to ride inside the poem i want to

live inside the poem where the rain turns to

snow and the snow turns back into rain where

everything is change everything on the verge

of becoming everything turning returning the high

of the highway when all you want to do is

drive and drive and drive




altars for the dead in san luis on my way

to taos altars for the dead food for the dead

a can of bumble bee oysters a bottle of

black velvet canadian whiskey masks above

the altars as if the spirits could float up

and inhabit the masks below the masks

photographs of the dead camera shots of

the dead candles flowers give the masks

your eyes your mouths spirits of possibilities

the best mask a skull-mask altars on many

levels remember the levels altars like poems

made on many levels in the west the sky

is the best riding the highway is to ride the

sky altars on many levels with a taste of sky

a taste of open space and the names of the

dead martinez arellano a stick of juicy fruit

gum chewing gum for the dead things that

the dead liked cinnamon raisins powdered

sugar a cowboy hat atop a saddle spirits of

possibilities candles crosses our lady of

guadalupe mascara and make-up some laffy

taffy candy a pair of crutches and skeleton

figures an image of a skeleton with a

cowboy hat yes bring the dead back for

a moment an instant with their favorite

belongings bring them back with the

mirror of a photograph a laughing mask






the best night for the blues

is a rainy night

and tonight it’s raining


i was born to the blues

i was born in a junkyard

i was born the son

of the mad man

a used car dealer

and salvage yard owner

he had a sign

in front of his place

with a letter missing

it read:

mad man’s savage yard

and that’s the way

blues poetry

should be

that’s how i grew up

in a savage land

listening to late night

radio stations from

the south

and tapping into

the savage nature

of the blues

a savage rhythm

a savage language

i was born to be blue

i was born with the heat

i was born with the beat

i was born in the backstreets

one more night

hot and steamy

the man in the moon

sings the blues

one more night

hot and steamy

the man in the moon

sings the blues

one more night

hot and steamy

the stars are guitars

born with the snake power

of voodoo

i grew up

sitting in the shells

of mangled cars

shouting my blues

i grew up

in the busted metal

of a jalopy graveyard

i grew up

in the glow of the


i grew up

in the dust

and the weeds

growing through

the floorboards

under the cherokee sun

of claremore, oklahoma

i grew up

pounding out rhythms

on the dashboards

of savage cars

i grew up

dancing with the ghosts

of the dead

in an automobile graveyard

i grew up

singing with the ghosts

of the dead

a savage blues

to be born

born to be blue

to be born

born to be blue

to be born

born with the heat

to be born

born with the beat

to be born

born in the backstreets

born with the roots of the blues

over there by the train tracks

i heard the train whistle blowing

in the middle of the night

like a long lonesome blues

and the first remark

about my poetry

was from an old indian

who said

them rhythms ain’t the blues, boy

them rhythm’s cherokee

and i knew i was

on to something

a different kind of blues

and when i visited

woody guthrie’s old home

just down the road

in okemah

driving those backroads

to woody’s home

that had no windows

driving that rich land

of green trees and black earth

to woody’s home

where you could see the sun

through the ceiling

and the scribblings on the walls

of poets and folk singers

“we know you now, woody

we know where you’ve come from”

and i knew early on

i would sing a savage blues

about a savage land

born to it