Thank you for your arrival. I now again have that lonesome freedom that every writer needs, that rises or sinks with every day. The following are old and new writings, harvests from my Songfarm, or from the song mines, and snatches from the wind when it comes home. Stay tuned.

Play Ball!

It was the experience of being at the ballpark I was swinging for.  Before the show, concessionaires were selling popcorn popcorn!  Ice cold beer here! Beer here! Program here! Get your souvenir programs here!  A funky 1950’s loudspeaker announced the welcome to tonight’s game between Them and Us, The Bad Guys versus the Good Guys. Show-goers came in jerseys and their favorite team caps.  The bleachers on stage were filled with audience members. “Loose Lips Munson” took his place in the announcers stand above the field. We sang the National Anthem and the game was underway.  Play Ball!

       We’ll start the chatter at breakfast    nothing to do all day
       All our business is baseball   nothing better than that
       Read the box scores on the kitchen table from the game night before
       We lost last night but there’s always tomorrow and tomorrow is here

       It’s gameday,  gameday,  gameday,  Play Ball!
       Popcorn,  peanuts,  crackerjacks,  ice cold beer here!
       Gameday stand up and cheer, gameday Play Ball!   

from song “Gameday”

Also make sure to check out these exclusive photos from the debut performance of Play Ball! Photos from Debut Performances August 2 & 3 by George Eggers and Jamey Penney-Ritter.

Safe at Home

"Safe at Home"

Warren Nelson and cast performing "Safe at Home" during the debut performance of Play Ball at Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua on August 3, 2012.

Let the Summer Go

Oh the Monarch is up on the butterfly   migrating back to old Mexico
Clouds of their colors flickering by   wings in the wind are a-whispering
How do I say so long to you   so long it may be before we two
See each other again on the common ground
I wish you well in all you do

Oh oh oh   let the summer go    oh oh oh  it’s time for the autumn show
Oh oh oh   let the summer go    oh oh oh  it’s time for the autumn show

Sailors now take your boat from the sea   gardeners dry your leaves to tea
Lovers button up and hurry inside   swimmers come to the shore
I’m gonna miss you what else can I say if only I could think of some clever way
But never a word have I heard that can say
Of the goodness you bring on to me


Carpenters sharpen and pack up your tools  children now step yourselves back into school
Bumblebees I don’t know just what you do  black bears soon you’ll be asleep in the snow
Oh how I hate to see you drive away   so far you must travel to rise the next day
Think of me often call when you can  or write me a letter in longhand


Song from CD Down At Patsy’s Bar
(Warren Nelson … written for an Old Last Night At Big Top Chautauqua)

My Favorite Gig of All Time?

In middle January I flew to Ft. Myers, Florida to perform a baseball monologue and a song I was commissioned to write to honor Bert Blyleven who had just been voted into The Baseball Hall of Fame. I performed at a banquet during Twins Fantasy Camp week where more than a hundred men and two women dressed in major league uniforms. They played hardball in the minor league complex fields that were barbered, chalked and raked to perfection.

I performed for half an hour. Talk about a Field of Dreams' job! I knocked it out of the park. I first told them-"Wow, here I am in the same room with all you heroes of mine. I remember when I was just a little kid watching you play. Oops, I just remembered that I'm older than most of you guys!"

The song was called "Circle You Bert". Bert Blyleven pitched 22 years in the major leagues, coming up when he was only 19. He was known as Professor Curveball. He is a true comedian besides a Hall of Fame ballplayer. My favorite joke of his- "Back in our day we never had steroids, we had hemorrhoids."

It was suggested by some of the campers I should put the performance on YouTube. My old friend John Larsen was there to film. Stay tuned.

I thought they might ask me to stay for spring training and try out but no such luck.

Here's proof, do I look happy? Me and my heroes:

Bottom Row Left to Right: Julio Becquer, Ron Coomer, Bert Blyleven, Warren "Birdman" Nelson, Tony Oliva, Frank Quilici, Lee Stange, Dave Boswell

Back Row Left to Right: Milt Cuyler, Frank "Sweet Music" Viola, Rick Aguilera, Dick Rasmussen, Bill "Soup" Campbell , Phil Roof, Jaun "Senor Smoke" Berenguer, Dick Stigman, Tom Brunansky, Tim Laudner, Kent Hrbek

Song Lyrics:  Circle You Bert

Circle you Bert   draw a ring around your name
Circle you Bert   on the wall of the hall of Fame
Number 28   you won 287
Now you’re going to baseball Heaven   in Cooperstown

Circle you Bert   about time they put you in the hall
Be Home by ‘leven Blyleven   so you can take the call
You were a horse and a gamer… and now you BE a Hall of Famer
You had the nerve and the swerve from the mound with that wicked
Wicked, wicked curve

Professor Curveball... Welcome to the Hall
You deserve it congratulations from your friends and fans one and all
Was a kick to watch you pitch and play
We were all home awaitin’ for the day
H. O. F.  add to your autograph

Now squirt the shaving cream   and light the shoelaces on fire
The Frying Dutchman’s here   what next will he conspire?
Just a man who played   a little boy’s game
Who learned it from the mound his Dad made and raised
I hear Bert’s got a ball   from every game he pitched
Except for those that left the field there it goes another one…
22 years   the itch count   who cares
Play ball the old time way   it’s meant to be played


Song: Autumn Fancy

The lake hills turn the color of a fox's coat
Easy in the breeze the leaves go float
When the birch burn yellow and the maple red
And the apples are ripe up overhead
When the fall is falling all around
Get your wood up quick winter coming to town
The way Indian Summer lays on the Bay this fine October day

Blue in the big lake blue in the sky
blue down the river of the time gone by
green come a summer to a golden end
Yellow is the eye over earth my friend

September winds are a sailor's charm
The new moon's up in the old moon's arm
Up the little rivers go the trout to spawn
You can see your breath rise in the dawn
Come early frost the summer people go
Back to our old selves, broke and slow
It's the Harvest Moon we dance around when the garden's in the jar

Blue in the big lake  blue in the sky
blue down the river of the time gone by
green come a summer to a golden end
Yellow is the eye over earth my friend

Come gray November the month of gales
Superior sings her shipwreck tales
In the waves that beat and pound the shore
Light your home fire now and close the door
When the geese are honking high in a V
And the boat slips are naked as a popple tree
By Thanksgiving Day and the herring run be done with all you've started

Blue in the big lake  blue in the sky
blue down the river of the time gone by
green come a summer to a golden end
Yellow is the eye over earth my friend

North wind at the window stand and stare
Daylight dwindles the brown Earth bare
Big Lake be still  freeze first on the Bay
Whoever's here now is here to stay
Go deep to sleep one cold clear night
Wake to a new world all winter white
Those who love the snow can lick the ice and toast the Solstice

Blue in the big lake  blue in the sky
blue down the river of the time gone by
green come a summer to a golden end
Yellow is the eye over earth my friend

The lake hills turn the color of a fox's coat
Easy in the breeze the leaves go float
When the birch burn yellow and the maple red
And the apples are ripe up overhead
When the fall is falling all around
Get your wood up quick winter coming to town
The way the Indian Summer lays on the Bay this fine October Day

Norbert Blei

This is a poem for Norbert Blei, great friend of mine, a soulmate of Wisconsin transported from Chicago.  Norbert lives in Door County where for many years he has practiced his great writing art in the conscience of our times. I admire (as do so many) his incredible voice lifting through his writings, and his presence in the landscape of what was and could be. Norbert has SPINE! Like his books written under the hat of his name.  He is a Wisconsin treasure with a hark to the nation. Besides his own incredible works, he has published through his Cross+Roads Press many books of poems and prose of other writers who deserve attention.  He works out of his "Coop" but he's no chicken of a voice.  More like a rooster crowing to the day to wake up! Google Norbert and begin your way into his world if you aren't yet familiar.  

NORBERT BLEI - March 26, 2010

Codger, a dodger, confidence trickster-
Keeper of Wisconsin.
Writer, let's know, of great Wisconsin wrongs.

I would lay light that his work
Unpaving a road through Door County
Will whisk dust up for young writers to come to
Find voice and camp there in their own
With a consciousness of no conciliations,
Follow their bare bones loosening the bullshit
To fit this new world that frighteningly forgets the old.
Prose man, poet blender.
Sender off to the world
His great working gifts.

A presence lifted from Illinois
Took the flyway of Lake Michigan
And built a nest as eagles do north
Where all can be seen from.

Perched in his coop to
Sway swoop down on any day.
Craft steeped like how-ever-old-he-is whiskey.
You can smell it on his breathway-
The truth.

Honor to the deep in shallow politics.
He is editing our time,
The anger all behind a voice of sweetness.

Plow the road.
Like that crazy crooked county road
That hauls all to the landing across from
Washington Island.
Jesus, who platted that?
Only one who can laugh along the way.

Norbert Blei ferries himself across
All of us.

Warren P. Nelson

How to Write a Song

God whistles and I sit up.
The song writing class I can't do.  How to explain.
Well, I like to have a baseball game on the radio in the next room.
Well, start paddling with the guitar in the rolling rivers of melody.
Fool around.
Carry the canoe of song one portage at a time.
A manual typewriter is best, the rhythm knocks there.
How many have I just throated out the window and given to the wind?
Memory begs later.
Have a tape recorder ready.
Just start and trust your own voice.
When the high note breaks the window, you've begun.
Lyrics come in invisible as spores, you breathe in and out. Inspire. Lick the page.
If the seed takes, the verses will grow.
All choruses need a hook and you are the shepherd.
Make sure only the day hears it first.  Otherwise it's jinxed.
Wrangle the thing around.
Watch for the smile or squinch when you bring it to someone.
Save the first draft.  
If it stays in the toes of your shoes, you've got something to walk with.
Sing it three days and if it still holds water, it's a keeper.
Don't call me, I have no idea.

For Mark "Pete" Alvin Nelson - Christmas 2009


I call my late brother's office. "Is Mark Nelson there?"
MaryJo, his receptionist, answers - "He's out in the field."
Time has gone by. We weep by laughing.


Photograph. He's out in a mountain meadow reading. On the annual Expedition. 
Watching him bent to a book, the mountain fades out of the print. 
I see the familiar bow of his head.
He read to his bed-dying day out of the book of Earth and its adventures
scooting the universe. The book he started writing, like time, he couldn't finish.


He's out in the field. Thousands of saplings he planted twenty-five years ago
are grown to full age, waving and windbreaking Martin County. Farmers he knew are planted in their fields, their sons gone to the Cities. Groundwater and ways, north in the Arrowhead, remember his boots.
Wetlands he saved glory in their muck. "Survey to the inch and then build with a bulldozer"
he once told me. 


His son won't remember how he clung to his Dad's neck like a baby baboon to the night.
At age 3 he wore his father's hat size. At the sick bed he cried, "Get up Daddy - go the park."
The day went dark.


I closed my eyes throwing his ashes to the pine forest floor back of his cabin.
Who knows where we all will land? 
He's out in the field.

Warren P. Nelson

Week to the West

In late May 2009, Big Top Chautauqua sent me to the trail of the bison, to seek inspiration to finish The Yo Ho Buffalo Hour, my musical portrait of the incredible 10,000-year stand of the 60 million that ran in the old free running days across the United States and Canada.

It is an honor song of the Native American's long, wandering, Earth-respecting way of life. From the tragic slaughter of the herds came a last hour call to save them from extinction - and it worked! The buffalo are my helping spirit. I traveled South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana. Here's a poem of my journey. 


Week to the West


To grass-fed Nebraska where the Niobrara meets the Missouri,
Under the billows of spring I take a green ride west.
And turn up north to slow roll through South Dakota and Wyoming.
It's good to go where no one knows.
Over the slow brown waters, crossing the bridge from now to then,
I shift down to hold behold
The loops of backwaters seeking smaller ways,
Carving through the mud black banks time streams on...
The short stem prairie green lights up suddenly after the first rain.
Wish I'd a been here.
In the bud branch shadows of the willows the long leaves are coming.
High noon is arisin'
Won't be long before the sunburn of August browns the carpet.
Short life. Keep driving.


Sign to Wounded Knee cemetery stuns me.
The toll on this road the white man has yet to pay.
The coming end was quick, gatling guns emptying belts of the bullets.
In their sights the solders shot up women and children running behind
The front line of the warriors.
The old free wandering ways grew over in path grass.
No one told me in the maps this sorrow would welcome me  


Buffy St. Marie's daughter with daughter in arms
Trades from the table beads strung in wrist laces and neck charms.
Eight dollars for that.  Fifteen for this.  Twenty here but she'll take ten.
Dream catchers the Europeans never traded for.  What use?
I hang mine from the rear view mirror.  Behind me the highway rolls up 
This cash she takes home she offers to her grandfather who was shot here.
He accepts only the prayer.
Some flow forever knows.  


Paha Sapa.  Black Sacred Hills. The Lakota never signed the Treaty
Or accepted the payment. 
The interest alone may buy them back a thousand years from now.
A running tab is posted over the headdress of the museum.
Wall Street. Wall Drug. 
The quills will never dip that ink.
The land is still not for sale.   


Devil's Tower.  Worship stone. 
Camp in the long throw.
Sleep in fire.
Tumbleweed dreams.
Wake and climb.
Coming close is so far away. 
Why in old Wyoming do I feel so at home. 

P.S. - Go visit our brave friends who are protecting the native Yellowstone herd. 

Warren Nelson at Big Top Chautauqua © Sophia Hantzes
Mark "Pete" Alvin Nelson
Warren onstage at the Minnesota State Fair - 2008
Play Ball!
Play Ball!
Play Ball!
Play Ball!
Play Ball!
Play Ball!
Play Ball!
Play Ball!