An Old Dream of an Old Song

Updated on April 10, 2018

The car in my dream.

The Arrival.

I dreamt of a black man who was singing a beautiful song. He sang, "Don't let that ship go down Lord, don't let that ship go down." As the music played, he told me of a time when he worked on the Mississippi flat boats. He said, "I bailed and bailed that ol muddy water till my arms felt like runnin' away from my body."
He was a big man and his grin was wide. His eyes were teared and his voice was as deep as the river. It was before I met him, I was in the back seat of a blue Peirce Arrow with my sweetheart. She was wearing a white Flapper dress and looked so beautiful with her red lipstick, bright blue eyes and moved with the grace of an angel.
An old woman was in the front seat passenger side. She was dressed in white cloud high class. With a tone of innocent greed she said with a cracked Southern drawl, "We are here to trade cheap wine and little white lies for the gold of a soul." She puffed her slim cigar and went on, "I do hope you brought extra barrels for that Edison voice recorder, along with fine tobacco, just in case the darky has such a taste."
The driver was wearing a black silk like fedora. A thin silver band was laced around the brim. I could only see the side of his smoothly shaven dark face. With a cigar locked in his teeth, his words of grit came out in smoke,"We have arrived."
My sweetheart, the old lady and I walked up a small green hill to an old barn wood shanty. The rusted tin porch roof was lined on the front edge with fingers of moss and tiny blue, Baby's Breath flowers.
The black man was sitting on a nail box, strumming a six string guitar with only five strings on it.
The old woman asked him if he had any songs. She told him we were collectors of folk music and if he would sing in the cone, we would give him a bottle of spirits and a bit of tobacco, if he was a smoking man.
The old black man plucked a few blues licks on his guitar and said, "I sing in yo cone. Don't want no spirits but sure could use some tobacco fo my pipe."
I set up the recording machine and began cranking.

The song.

He sang:
Got to get dem goods to childen, bail that water out
Got to get dem goods to mammas, brother sing and shout

Don't let that ship go down Lord, don't let that ship go down

Mississippi muddy water, seepin thru dem cracks
Feeds our womens, sons and daughters with our breakin backs

Don't let that ship go down Lord, don't let that ship go down

This ol bucket is my burden, bail that water out
All my muscles sho is hurtin, Jesus help us shout

Don't let that ship go down Lord, don't let that ship go down.......

Recording machine.


He plucked a few licks at the end of the song and smiled, looking upwards as if he were performing for someone in heaven. I reset the machine and played his song. Big tears and fear came in his eyes as he said, "Dat don't sound like me! You folks ain't never gonna hear a soul with no machine. You best go now and take you spirits and tobacco wit ya."
He sat his guitar down, stood up and walked in his shack's screen door, letting the long rusted spring slam it shut. An awful feeling came in my heart as my sweetheart took my hand to pull me away.
She pulled harder and harder as I tried to say something to the old woman. I began to spiral out of the dream. The old woman began growing older and the driver looked up at me while spitting the word, "Fool!"
I woke up. My heart was pounding and my sweet wife was sound asleep beside me. I took a few sips of water from the glass on my bedside table. I lit a cigarette and began to recall my dream. I felt shame along with relief that it was just a dream. I thought of my own songs that I have written over the years. I thought of my failed venture as an artist and how the love of my wife and children brought me home.
I thought of all the hard physical work I had done and continue to do. I thought of how recently. I wanted to quit so bad. I was so tired of getting up at 4:00 AM to go to work, then coming home with pain in my body and a weary soul. I was on the edge of tossing in the towel to a man who was in the 14th. round with the world.
I rememberd the dream and the black man's kind eyes. He was not only singing a song to me, he was praying for me, "Don't let that ship go down."

© 2018 Tom Cornett


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    • Tom Cornett profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Cornett 

      2 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you for commenting Mary. It makes sense that our subconscious talks to us. I think if we don't understand immediately, we will at some point in our lives. Thanks again. :)

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      What a dream you had. I was told that dreams are the ways our subconscious talk to us and that everything in it is all about us. The problem is only us will truly understand it as the symbols have more personal meaning that is only true for us.


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