Apparition in brown suede

Alternate photo for the cover of Blonde on Blonde

He stands at the mouth of the empty alley.
The wind makes a nest of his hair;
the cold deciphers the pattern in his scarf.

It tells how he met her Sunday morning
(writing terza rima in the automat,
between cups of cold coffee and a bandaged flute);

how they discussed Dvorak and Doc Watson,
and he explained, over apple pie, he had a dream
of orchards where the pickers sang "Desolation Row";

how he moved in with her on Sunday night
with his photographs of Nashville in a bag
and a new guitar he'd polished like a Buick;

and how she's thrown him out before breakfast
for insisting the window be open all night,
for leaning out into the New York sky

and trying to connect the scattered stars
into some vaguely human figure, no matter
what direction it might be moving in--

a brand-new, man-shaped constellation,
even if it was playing a Hammond organ
plugged into the aurora borealis.

New Brunswick, 1969


Like many Americans of my generation, I remember exactly where and when I bought my first copy of Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde in 1966. I was so eager to hear it that I ran straight to the new Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center and put it on a turntable there.

It was a lot wilder and more soulful than Bringing It All Back Home, the Dylan album I knew best in those days. For a few weeks I listened to "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" every night before I went to sleep.

I wrote this three years--and many hours of listening--later, still very much enthralled by Dylan. (If you've ever wondered about the photo on the album cover, it was taken on Jacob Street in lower Manhattan, now the site of Southbridge Towers.)

Photograph by Jerrold Schatzberg

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