“To Ramona” (1964)

Michael Gray calls “To Ramona” one of two songs off Another Side of Bob Dylan that comes “across as early flashes of the creative explosion” soon to be.  It’s a five verse song with a significant thematic rhyme “fed”/”head” beginning the third, middle verse:
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I can see that your head
Has been twisted and fed
By worthless foam from the mouth
I can tell you are torn
Between stayin’ and returnin’
On back to the South
You’ve been fooled into thinking
That the finishin’ end is at hand
Yet there’s no one to beat you
No one t’ defeat you
’Cept the thoughts of yourself feeling bad

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The rhyme feeds images that last, a head twisted and foam from the mouth. The foam comes from others–worthless fodder, scraps of crap Dylan would get used to from the media, would come to know all to well what it was, and even more so how do deal with it–only self-pity could be the real crippling damaging force.
“head“/”fed” is the only rhyming couplet in that verse.  But what I really like is how the ending -d sound is echoed later in it at other line ending words, “hand” and “bad.”  “head” which begins the verse almost helps “hand” and “bad” become a rhyme, especially when Dylan sings it compressing just the right words and expanding just the right sounds to do it, with that “early flash” of “creative explosion” as can be heard in this live performance at Newcastle, England on May 6, 1965:
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“Temporary Like Achilles” (1966)

You love someone but he/she sends you no regards, sends someone out to have you barred  . . . now that’s pretty hard to deal with. In Temporary Like Achilles,” things get harder and harder for the would be lover, while the words that rhyme with the word “hard” keep piling up.  “heart” and “hard” have a kind of assonance, and the heart being referred to is questioned as being made of stone, solid rock even.  The “guard” rhyme with “hard” helps phrase the deepest question, puts it back on the object of the devotion:
Just what do you think you have to guard?
You know I want your lovin’
Honey, but you’re so hard
If nothing else gets her (assuming gender)  to let down her guard this might, but if the guard is actually someone like Achilles, well this is going to get even harder:
Achilles is in your alleyway
He don’t want me here, he does brag
He’s pointing to the sky
And he’s hungry, like a man in drag
How come you get someone like him to be your guard?
You know I want your lovin’
Honey, but you’re so hard
Now Achilles is rock solid hard, all brawn, but he once did dress in drag, ordered to by his mother to make him avoid going to war. But he was hungry for battle, his nature was to be a warrior. Capture Achilles in that moment of his myth and make him your guard? Well that’s bound to be temporary.  Maybe there’s hope in breaking down or losing that guard altogether after all.
Back to the myth: here is a painting from Greek Mythology Link of the moment when Odysseus discovers Achilles’ disguise:

“Standing In The Doorway” (1997)

Time Out of Mind has that Keatsian quality of how fleeting all of life is–“a song cycle,” Daniel Mark Epstein says, “about aging, love, and loss, where the lyrics of one ballad of angst bleed into the lyrics of the next.” Perhaps someone who can see sadness in laughter has a strenuous enough tongue to “burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine” or even turn stars cherry red.

On Time Out of Mind‘s “Standing in the Doorway,” “stars” is not a rhyming word, but they are colored by the speaker’s state of mind:

The light in this place is so bad
Making me sick in the head
All the laughter is just making me sad
The stars have turned cherry red

Bad light, feeling sick, and laughter that makes you sad all can add up to make you see the stars with cherry red glasses.  Cherry?  Well maybe the word is needed to keep the 7 syllable second line in each of these two rhyming couplets alive.  The speaker is sick, melancholy, yes?  But not enough to keep those cherry red producing eyes away from lines that rhyme and balance.

There’s also a lot of “he said” and “she did” in “Standing in the Doorway.”  She (is it a she, is the speaker a he?) done left him in the doorway crying, but when it comes down to it (literally down the end of the song), the rhyme with “said” says it all:

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I see nothing to be gained by any explanation
There are no words that need to be said
You left me standing in the doorway crying
Blues wrapped around my head

Yes, nothing to say, just tears and blues.  And an excellent blues tune it is ending with nothing to say, but plenty to sing, not to say, but a need to sing the blues.

Michael Gray calls “Standing In The Doorway” one of four major songs on Time Out Of Mind.  David Yaffe puts it on his top 70 list in Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown.  If you’ve ever been left alone, abandoned, tossed aside, rejected, well, this song resonates, finds its way into your heart, your broken one.

Dylan also uses “head” twice in the song, once in the second verse rhyming with “bad” and “sad”:

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The light in this place is so bad
Making me sick in the head
All the laughter is just making me sad
The stars have turned cherry red
I’m strumming on my gay guitar
Smoking a cheap cigar
The ghost of our old love has not gone away
Don’t look like it will anytime soon
You left me standing in the doorway crying
Under the midnight moon

This is a wrenched rhyme, the way Dylan delivers the “ea” sound forces it to rhyme with “bad”/”sad.”  The whole song is wrenching, the sadness is especially–captured so well with the tone of his voice, the highlight being the way he stretches out the word “head,” the last word on the song:

There are no words that need to be said
You left me standing in the doorway crying
Blues wrapped around my head

The “said”/”head” rhyme ends the song.  But it’s not the sound of that rhyme that lingers; it’s the way he stretches out the words that end the last two lines, ” crying” and “head.”  The singer is not the only one the blues wrap around by the end of the song, the listener is, too.  This is a blues song, and the lingering instrumental after the word “head” leaves the you with nothing to say and maybe even tearing up if you let the song have its desired effect on you.  The tone of voice and the atmosphere created by it may  be unmatched in any other Dylan song.

Here’s the version from Masked and Anonymous: