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that gravelly voice

that gravelly voice
   will not sing the safe songs
   or even the expected ones.

he sings of trains,
   of a relentless movement towards justice,
   of the clickety-clack of history towards something worth hoping for.

he sings of love, of course,
   but not as an emotion to be exploited,
   but as a force to be reckoned with.

he sings of new jersey, of course,
  but also of youngstown and johnstown,
   of steel mills and nebraska and the michigan line.

he sings of the outlaws, the outsiders,
   the unwelcome, the unaccepted,
   and the untouchables.

he sings of having a good time, and can dance with the best of them in his own way,
   but only when everyone is invited to the party,
   including those with dirty fingernails and rolled-up sleeves.

he holds a guitar in one hand,
   having learned to make it sing,
and a pen in the other,
   the poet of the downtrodden and beat down.

he will whisper a confession,
shout in righteous anger,
without betraying his identity:
   the blue collar prophet
   the east coast seeger
   the jersey steinbeck
standing on the shoulders of others,
growing from his broken places,
singing freedom's songs,
and giving the world a gift to sing along to.

bruce is a jack of all trades,
   telling us in so many songs, strums and shows:
   we'll be alright.


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