that deep voice—unlike any–tells
life’s hard luck poetry to us through
the car speakers. I close my eyes and
let sun pass over and through me as we
drive through shadow and dappled
country road. the trees sway too. we
really believe he meets Sunday morning
with a beer for breakfast and one for
dessert and we wonder at the impossibility
of it. but now I remember my father,
eyes glazed over, leaning on the arm
of his best friend, singing those lines
with gusty passion. and when he puts
on his “cleanest dirty shirt”, we titter
at the way the words butt up against
each other, like our parents in the front—
mom in her clean and dad with the
dirty. but even four kids in the
backseat of a station wagon know
where he should be on Sunday
morning. the hardness of the
sidewalk and the distance of the
church bell quiets our hungry
mouths. today, I feel it. I couldn’t
know then. my child-eyes were
too wide for the unseen. but now,
I know. I know the lonely of
Sunday morning coming down.
I wrote this poem for Glynn Young’s Random Acts of Poetry prompt: What Poem Do You Come From? …select a poem you first read in high school or college that had an impact on you, that you remember or that you enjoyed, and write a poem about it. This one is a memory from a little earlier in my childhood, but I think it fits.
There was no Shakespeare at our house. No Dickenson, Yeats, or Browning. Not even Mother Goose. Our poetry came through the 8-track–what played on the radio when we drove to visit the relatives. Flatt and Scruggs, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings. These were the poets of my youth. But the Man in Black was in a class all by himself. This particular song was so unusual in its contemplative nature–it captured us. Written by Kris Kristofferson and released in 1970, it made even a young girl melancholy.
Have a listen.