After the Ferris Wheel Stops: Tom Kozlowski Sings Poetry

Image of ferris wheel light from Tom Kozlowski's lyric

All the Light I Had at the Time

All the light I had at the time: fairy dust, blue and fine.
Fellini-esque flying Christ. Moonlight walks, rivershine.

All the love you left behind: markets fell, but I survived.
We crashed and burned, o love of mine. Flames never go out of style.
Flames never go out of style.

Tilt O’Whirl, Ferris wheel. Laughing in a House of Mirrors.
You said you wanted the carnival life, the Tunnel of Love.

All the light I had at the time couldn’t keep us satisfied.
That hit-and-run turned me inside out: faith like a phoenix on wings of doubt.
Faith like a phoenix on wings of doubt…

Fortune Teller, Wonder Wheel. I learned to laugh, I learned to feel.
Took a chance on the carnival life. Got lost in a Tunnel of Love…

Thrive on nothing, maybe less. Defining zero as nothingness.
Sayin’ “life is sweet” is such a curse. To kill a mockingbird is even worse.

All the light I had at the time: fairy dust, blue and fine.
All the love you left behind—we crashed and burned, o love of mine.

Music by Tom Kozlowski. Lyrics by Tom Kozlowski and Roy Bentley.

Copyright © 2014 by Tom Kozlowski and Roy Bentley. All rights reserved.

Roy Bentley About Roy Bentley

Roy Bentley is the author of Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama Press), Any One Man (Bottom Dog Books), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House Press). A new book, Walking with Eve in the Loved City, has been selected by Billy Collins as a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize and will be publlshed in the spring of 2018 by the University of Arkansas Press. Work from that collection has appeared in Shenandoah, Pleiades, Rattle, Blackbird, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.


  1. Eric M. Martin says:

    I love how there is no regret in Mr. Kozlowski’s performance of Mr. Bentley’s poem. This is a piece about good intentions that grow into (or, maybe, out of) a passionate sense of how things should be. Those good intentions eventually lead to disappointment.

    But the ideal, as this song suggests, is often a kind of fantasy derived from an assortment of undeveloped or even childish impressions. The romantic ideal can be an object of escape, a purposeful fantasy. It can be what we cling to when reality proves too difficult or too complex. I think this song suggests that such an escape has a natural half-life. The believability/plausibilty of any dream degrades over time.

    Thinking about Steinbeck’s novels, there seems to be a very similar sense of how a pursuit of the Ideal often turns to non-redemptive tragedy. (Because the ideal was always an escape from the more difficult compromises demanded when on engages with reality as it is?)

    IN DUBIOUS BATTLE, OF MICE AND MEN, THE PEARL and THE GRAPES OF WRATH each would seem to adhere to a story arc like the one outlined in Mr. Bentley’s poem. Belief in something perfect (where that perfection is defined by an almost story-book set of associative qualities) leads the characters to hope and then to disaster (and, in these books, to death).

    I don’t take this to be a negative commentary on hope. I take it, rather, to be a positive commentary on strength and maturity. As Mr. Kozlowski performs this poem it is without regret. It is a positive statement. Realizing that the ideal may not be quite as authentic as we may have once believed, we have to ask what is Real if the dream was just a dream. Asking that question and finding a way to look back at the dream without bitterness is, in essence, a definition of growth and strength, I think.

    Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that John Steinbeck was advocating call to move past our ideals so that we can better grapple with reality in the books mentioned here, I have come to think that one of the central points of interest in his work is the complexity that arises from his insistence on demonstrating what happens to the people who fail to ask the question we are asking here. (If the dream is just a dream, then…)

    Steinbeck’s dreamers are punished. Seen one way, his tales are morality tales about a cruel world that will not accept those of a pure heart. Seen another way, his novels suggest that the goodness or putiry of one’s philosophy cannot keep a person’s hands clean.

    George, the dreamer and the caretaker, has to kill his best friend. There is no way to look at that and say there is a simple moral at work. I’d argue that the book is as compelling as it is, in part, because it speaks to Mr. Bentley’s notion of growth.

    For a time (in this fictive/poetic world) the dream competes with reality for precedence. That is the romance part of the story. What comes next is harder and isn’t a romance.

    Apologies for going on so long. I didn’t mean to.
    I look forward to any more material like this!


    • Roy Bentley says:

      Thank you for your response, Eric.Such a wonderful “reading” of the song that I am speechless!

      A great pleasure to read your thoughts–I read your essay this past summer and enjoyed it, as well.

      Again, thank you!

      Best wishes,


  2. To jee veľký zvlášť prre tých, čerstvom blogosfére.
    Simple, ale veľmi presný info … Ďakujem za zdieľanie tohto jedného.
    Musí prečítať príspevok!

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