E MARTIN NOLAN'S TORONTO
E MARTIN NOLAN'S DETROIT
E MARTIN NOLAN'S NEW ORLEANS
[click on maps to expand]
*maps designed by Emma Dolan*
"In the light over the back alley, a heavy-blowing snowfall"
"Jagged concrete boulders line the shore"
"The pit that precedes the condo"
"Leaving the Rouge Park Inn in Dearborn" (Prologue)
"An empty building with a ripped poster"
"The Grand River exit of the Southfield Freeway"
"Brown pelicans return"/ "A Woman playing hook on her porch in the summertime"
"Mardi Gras and I can be"
"The oil well will gush for weeks"
from "The Peace North Americana"
*All recordings by Daniel Kincaid Renton*
For the ghost of Muley Graves
John Qualen playing Muley Graves in John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
"The folks ain't never comin' back. I'm jus' wanderin' aroun' like a damn ol' graveyard ghos'."
I've been interested in Muley Graves since I first read John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath in high school. He appears near the beginning of the novel. Tom Joad, fresh from prison and travelling with the Reverend Casey, finds Muley, one of the lone holdouts in an abandoned land. Muley informs them that the Dust Bowl and land owners were forcing his family and others off the land they tenanted. Muley attempts to explain why he's not leaving: "them sons-a-bitches says I got to get off—an', Jesus Christ, a man can't, when he's tol' to!" Tom and Casey, and later the rest of the Joad family, fail to convince Muley to come to California with them, and the novel leaves him behind: "They saw Muley standing forlornly in the dooryard looking after them. And then the hill cut them off. The cotton fields lined the road. And the truck crawled slowly through the dust toward the highway and the west."
Tom Joad would go on, deservedly, to become a fixture of American lore. Bruce Springsteen wrote a song about him, "The Ghost of Tom Joad." Rage Against the Machine covered it often in concert, and Zack de la Rocha would recite his famous speech: "I'll be all aroun' in the dark. I'll be ever'where—wherever you look. Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there." Right on.
But no one ever made a song for the ghost of Muley Graves. For every Tom Joad, every hero, there's a thousand folks who are simply left behind. So I gave it a shot, and I asked some real songwriters to build off what I wrote. Watch this space for further variations.
Muley, these are for you.
-E Martin Nolan