No Country You Remember
But for the steady wash of rain,
The house is quiet now. Outside,
An occasional car moves past the lawn
And leaves the stillness purified.
I find myself in a dark chair
Idly picking a banjo, lost
In reveries of another time,
Thinking at what heavy cost
I came to this particular place,
This house in which I let my life
Play out its subterranean plot,
My Christian and enduring wife.
What if I paid for what I got?
Nothing can so exhaust the heart
As boredom and self-loathing do,
Which are the poisons of my art.
All day I resurrect the past.
This instrument I love so ill
Hammers and rings and, when I wish,
Lies in its coffin and is still.
I dream of winter mornings when
Between bare woods and a wrecked shack
I came down deep encrusted slopes,
A bag of dead birds at my back,
Then let my mind go blank and smile
For what small game the mind demands,
As dead time flickers in the blind
Articulation of my hands.
I know you must despise me, you
Who judge and measure everything
And live by little absolutes—
What would you like to hear me sing?
A strophe on the wasted life?
Some verses dealing with my fall?
Or would you care to contemplate
My contemplation of the wall?
I write from down here, where I live.
In the cold light of a dying day,
The covered page looks cold and dead.
And—what more is there to say
Except, you read this in a dream.
I wrote nothing. I sat and ate
Some frozen dinner while I watched
The Late Show, and the Late Late.
Collected Poems: 1952-1999, University of
Arkansas Press, ©
2000. Reprinted by permission
of the author.