Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TO THE REPUBLIC, by JAMES GALVIN

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

TO THE REPUBLIC, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Past / fences the first sheepmen cast across the land, processions
Subject(s): Life; Nostalgia

Past fences the first sheepmen
cast across the land, processions of cringing pitch or cedar posts pulling into
the vanishing point like fretboards carrying barbed melodies, windharp
narratives, songs of place, I'm thinking of the long cowboy ballads Ray
taught me the beginnings of and would have taught me the ends if he could have
remembered them.
But remembering was years ago when Ray
swamped for ranches at a dollar a day and found, and played guitar in a Saturday
night band, and now he is dead and I'm remembering near the end when he just
needed a drink before he could tie his shoes.
We'd stay up all night playing the beginnings
of songs like Falling Leaf, about a girl who died of grief, and Zebra
Dun, about a horse that pawed the light out of the moon.
Sometimes Ray would break through and recall a few
more verses before he'd drop a line or scramble a rhyme or just go blank, and
his workfat hands would drop the chords and fall away in disbelief.
Between songs he'd pull on the rum
or unleash coughing fits that sounded like nails in a paper bag.
Done, he'd straighten and say, My cough's not
just right, I need another cigarette, and light the Parliament he bit at an
upward angle like Roosevelt and play the start of another song.
Then, played out and drunk enough to go home,
he'd pick up his hat and case and make it, usually on the second try, through
the front gate and gently list out into the early morning dark, beginning again
some song without end, yodeling his vote under spangles.

Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org

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