Posted by: Mark Nielsen | March 31, 2009

Ballad of St. Nobody (For Ray Charles)

 – by Mark Nielsen,  April 2006 – March 2009


The Ballad of St. Nobody (for Ray Charles)
There are two men inside me,
Know this and we’ll go far:

The Man that I am meant to be

Embracing the one I are.


It’s seldom that the two men meet.

It is a gift of grace

To rise above that outer self

And find your inner face.


The child inside walks barefoot,

The man outside is shod–

The man outside walks in the world

The Inside Man, in God.


I came shoeless into the world

With nothing shall I leave–

Returning to the One I love,

So praise God when you grieve.


Fat and happy, free I was,

Firstborn of Butch and Chick.

No poverty, no hunger pangs,

But inside: weak and sick.


Yet “Bless the meek,” said Son of Man,

“ ‘Dem hungry for what’s right.“

So hear my loud but sickly wail,

It’s not a silent night.


I need your help. Do you need mine?

Ask once– it shall be given.

Not from my own riches or strength

But from the hand of heaven.


Excessive love, love overflows

Down here to where we sit

Mired in the mud, lost in the flood,

Conditions quite unfit–

Unfit for any child of God,

Unfit but necessary:

To gain some strength, the training ground

To crush the adversary.


“Here I am, Lord!” once I said–

“Send me… but please, not there

Where fools and friends spit in my face

And people do not care.”


Was any martyr ever glad?

Any saint happy to cry?

Eager to give up comfortable shoes?

Yet Outside Man must die.


I am a poor wayfaring stranger

Traveling through this woe.

And ‘til I’m home, the Man Inside

Leads where I don’t want to go.


Originally composed April 10-12, 2006 (Edited/adjusted March 25-31, 2008)


—- —-
Inspired by the following:
Ray Charles’ songs & life, especially: I Got a Woman, What’d I Say, Georgia On My Mind, A Song for You

The folksongs of Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie and other classic “gospel/empowerment” songs
The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi (Make me an instrument of thy peace…)
The writings of  Brother Thomas Merton on the True Self/False Self struggle

DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT by Dylan Thomas [ here’s a decent 




Dylan Thomas Page ]



  1. Damn. Yeah. Powerful. True. Steel. Core. Resonation.
    I volunteered to usher in order to see Ray Charles once. I’ve never experienced so much music come out of one human before. It was like a soul was making itself visible. But to the ears instead of the eyes.

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