The day is pink meat and almost done.

I take a drink. Maggie boils our corn.

I look to the mowed lawn, know the clippings

feed our garden then turn straw pale by June.

I get red-lipped, cosy as a camp-fire,

remembering: I held the phone for him.


And this was long ago, a decade or more.

For once the whole house kept mind of itself.

All of us, even Tuna Dave, stayed quiet.

I held my breath by the sex of his strings.

He plucked falsetto through Red Dirt Girl,

his banjo shivering like skin at each caress.


One note was a leather whip in a field

of daisies, the next an autumn leaf.

The National Radio Man listened

from New York City and said, Boy

you’ve got to get north. We’ll pay the whole fare,

Just come. And that was it.


The house broke up. No more camp fires

or late nights with our instruments. The smell

of good grass left the air. Some of us still

stay in touch but we don’t know where he is,

if he made it up to New York or quit

in Nashville or went, like Tuna,


into the cans and bottles. It was long ago;

the music was rich as the tanneries,

like the grass used to be down here.

But it is something more I miss

when Maggie shouts my name,

says the corn is ready now.


First published in New Leaf 23 (2007)  and collected in  Tomorrow, We Will Live Here, 2010.