Secondhand Man

by | Jan 16, 2022 | Robert Vaughan - January Day 2

You want to see poverty, let me take you home to Sobral. I grew up eating dust, sand, the odd nut, and improvised verse. This was before rap and funk and the big supermarkets sold soda and microwave popcorn. We were the inspiration for popcorn. I sang in church and county fairs. I stole car radios and made enough for tuition in Fortaleza. My father tried to shoot me with a carbine when I told him I was going to study history and philosophy. The bullet went right through the mud wall.

I entered in every talent contest I could get to. It’s not that I believed I was gifted, it was just the fastest, easiest and only legal way to make any money. I made friends. We started a band, stayed up every night writing and jamming. I got a grant to medical school. Took the money and moved to another planet, Rio de Janeiro. I met Fagner, Sergio, Ednardo, Elis, Jorge and Jorge, my first single got picked up and with it the complications began. The dictatorship was all over us—bees on honey, flies on shit, every cliche in the rule book—you could blame the drugs or consciousness or reading the wrong books, I just couldn’t handle seeing our poverty and hunger anymore, so I sang about it and those in power didn’t like it.

In Sao Paulo, I couldn’t help but get ecological. That day on Macumba Beach when I watched simple folks, just like you and me, bludgeon a poor beached whale to death, I lost all hope. Even verse made no sense. I just said whatever I wanted wherever I went not thinking too much about meaning or consequence. Sure, I lost all acquisitions. Keys, cars, apartments, instruments, composition copyrights, even visitation rights to my own daughters. I’m sorry I skipped out on more than one hotel bill and lived off charity for longer than needed or expected. My agent moved to Lisbon with all my savings. I’ll never admit to disappearing or fleeing. I was just resting. My last appearance was on that horrible tabloid show. I went home to my dirt road beside the church full of birds and childhood friends. The treelined town squares were full of neighbours who knew me when all was pure melody. I knew the aneurism was coming long before it did and died so my songs would live.

Antônio Carlos Belchior

Inspired by Elis Regina performing “Like Our Parents”
well, worth a look/listen…

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