Who made the banjo sad & wrong?
Who made the luckless girl & hell bound boy?
Who made the ballad? The one, I mean,
where lovers gallop down mountain brush as though in
where hooves break ground to blood-earth scent.
Who gave the boy swift words to woo the girl from home,
& the girl too pretty to leave alone? He locks one
beneath her breasts as they ride on maybe her
undone & falls to a ditch of black-eyed-susans.
she dreams the clouds are so much flour spilt on heaven's
run the dark county of the heart this music comes from
I don't know where to hammer-on or to drop a thumb to
haunted string that sets the story straight: All night
on Polly's grave with a silver spade & every creek
makes one last splash. Though flocks of swallows loom
hung in cedar now will score the girl's last thrill. Tell
me, why do I love this sawmill-tuned melancholy song
& thud of knuckles darkening the banjo face?
Tell me how to erase the ancient, violent beauty
in the devil of not loving what we love.
was born in a Tennessee sanatorium hours after my mother's
father died & I know
how the womb becomes a salt-sea grave.
was born in the last seconds of small crops & small
change rained down on the
collection plate's felt palate & I know
soul's barn debt to past generations, too.
ditchfuls of chicory flashed in the after-rain sun as
scent rose & its steepled fog distilled in Tennessee
I know I'm not supposed to be here on account of all those
crazy aunts & I know
great-grandma was five
her Cherokee mother died & her daddy dumped her on
the red clay curb
of an Arkansas reservation then drove away in a wagon
she just strode the fields of milkweed back to Tennessee
& married her cousin.
I was five I drowned a fly in a piepan of water then spooned
it out & heaped
a hill of salt on its still body until I could hear a
buzz again (as if within a belly)
I know the rush of the resurrected.
was born in the last decade of small town girls wearing
white gloves to funerals.
an infant my boy quit suckling long enough to wave to
my mother's ghost
who used to drift in the doorway of the hours.
at three he told me that at my age he had red hair &
broke his neck falling off
a runaway horse I know
rocking chair's set too close to the edge of the porch.