THE ORGAN DONER’S BENEDICTION
You have been given the corneas of a poet;
see a world in a grain of sand.
You have the heart of a poet;
You will like it, because it is bitter.
You have the liver of a poet;
down in lovely muck you must lie.
You have the kidneys of a poet; pray
that they were not Bukowski’s.
You have the tendons and the marrow
of a poet, so stretch before exercising,
and be strong for the work ahead, for
you have miles to go before you sleep.
JERRY JEFF WALKER
I remember how he grins out at us, hair flying, cowboy hat in hand, bandana tied at his throat, on horseback in the Texas sun. I don’t know if the album is Viva Terlingua, or Live at Gruen Hall, or another, and it’s not worth the trip down to the basement room where my wife has relegated my music, the five foot tall Snell speakers, the massive Kenwood receiver, the turntable and tape deck. Because the point is I remember how young he was in that bright sunshine on that clear day of that good summer before airbags and before Advil, and before CDs with fragile cases and cover art so small you can’t see horsehair flying and you can’t read the liner notes with that story of the impossible bet pitching pennies, and how he beat himself and landed on the floor of another hotel room
like the one where he slept on the day that he didn’t show at the big outdoor summer concert in the Berkshires and EmmyLou sang Luxury Liner and C’est La Vie and she was young and beautiful and then she sang Pancho & Lefty and Boulder to Birmingham and she was pregnant and could barely reach beyond her belly to strum that big Gibson acoustic and she kept singing but he still didn’t show, and the pissed off crowd was yelling JERRY JEFF, JERRY JEFF, JERRY JEFF and the promoters announced he wasn’t coming, and then they threw Buck White on stage — Texas barrelhouse piano and high energy and his daughters singing backup and the crowd booing and still chanting JERRY JEFF, but ten minutes later Buck had us and we were dancing on the lawn and singing along to More Pretty Girls Than One,
and one of them was blonde and she was short, and she couldn’t see over the crowd, so she sat on my shoulders and balanced with her hands on my head, and the fringe of soft denim on her cut-off jeans tickled my neck and she ran her fingers through my hair like I was her big brother or her boyfriend and she would bend to yell “Thank you” in my ear, and her breasts would crush down on my head, and that damn band could have played all day and all night, and it was I who breathed “Thank you” to whatever Gods lived up above those blazing white clouds and jostled each other as they peered down at that swaying, clapping proof of the goodness of it all.
Roderick Bates has published poems in The Dark Horse, Stillwater Review, Naugatuck River Review, Red Eft Review, Hobo Camp Review, and Rat’s Ass Review (which he now edits). He also writes prose, and won an award from the International Regional Magazines Association for an essay published in Vermont Life. He is a Vermonter and a Dartmouth graduate.