Track 5: Summertime
as performed by Janis Joplin
God’s got his eye on me, but I ain’t a sparrow.
I’m more like a lawn mower . . .no, a chainsaw,
Anything that might mangle each manicured lawn
In Port Arthur, a place I wouldn’t return to
If the mayor offered me every ounce of oil
My daddy cans at the refinery. My voice, I mean,
Ain’t sweet. Nothing nice about it. It won’t fly
Even with Jesus watching. I don’t believe in Jesus.
The Baxter boys climbed a tree just to throw
Persimmons at me. The good and perfect gifts
From above hit like lightning, leave bruises.
So I lied—I believe, but I don’t think God
Likes me. The girls in the locker room slapped
Dirty pads across my face. They called me
Bitch, but I never bit back. I ain’t a dog.
Chainsaw, I say. My voice hacks at you. I bet
I tear my throat. I try so hard to sound jagged.
I get high and say one thing so many times
Like Willie Baker who worked across the street—
I saw some kids whip him with a belt while he
Repeated, Please. School out, summertime
And the living lashed, Mama said I should be
Thankful, that the town’s worse to coloreds
Than they are to me, that I’d grow out of my acne.
God must love Willie Baker—all that leather and still
A please that sounds like music. See.
I wouldn’t know a sparrow from a mockingbird.
The band plays. I just belt out, Please. This tune
Ain’t half the blues. I should be thankful.
I get high and moan like a lawn mower
So nobody notices I’m such an ugly girl.
I’m such an ugly girl. I try to sing like a man
Boys call, boy. I turn my face to God. I pray. I wish
I could pour oil on everything green in Port Arthur.