Woody Guthrie on the Radio by Lexi Kent-Monning
After Richard Brautigan
I was trying to describe you to someone a few days ago. You don’t act like anyone I’ve ever known before.
I couldn’t say: “Well, he looks just like Paul Newman, except that he’s 6’3” and his hair is different, and of course he’s not a movie star.”
I couldn’t say that because you don’t look like Paul Newman at all.
I finally ended up describing you as a play I saw when I was a child in Salinas, California. I guess I saw it in 1992 or ‘93: somewhere in there. I think I was nine or ten or eight. It was a play about Woody Guthrie and a perfect 1980s pacifism social justice kind of play to show kids.
The play was about Woody Guthrie being born in Oklahoma and being named after Woodrow Wilson. He had to leave Oklahoma and move to Texas as a teenager when his Dad went into debt and Woody spent most of his time busking for money while he taught himself how to play guitar.
Then he went west to work, and started writing protest songs.
There was an incredible heroic dimension that came from the writing of “This Land is Your Land.” It sounded ancient and modern at the same time.
Then the play showed Woody touring with Pete Seeger and Lead Belly to take away forever the dark ways of his life.
Suddenly, religiously, with the throwing of a sticker on his guitar that read “This machine kills fascists,” Woody had an electric life. His family got to live in an apartment on Central Park West and hear his songs on the radio.
It was really a fantastic play and it excited me like reading Little Women or seeing photographs of the Statue of Liberty.
I wanted Woody’s guitar to kill fascists everywhere in the world. I wanted everyone in the world to hear Woody Guthrie on the radio.
That’s how you look to me.
Lexi Kent-Monning is an alumna of the Tyrant Books workshop Mors Tua Vita Mea in Sezze Romano, Italy. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tilted House Review, X-R-A-Y, Little Engines, Neutral Spaces, Entropy, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, and can be found at twitter.com/lexicola