The Voice

The Johnny Cash Tour Bus is parked in the plaza

in front of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

in Cleveland. My wife and daughters

having little interest in a bus, I boarded alone.

 

Johnny, June and young John Carter Cash

had separate compartments.

 

June’s is done up in baby-blue velour. Standing

there where she lived that thrumming road life,

I felt her heart ache, almost heard that

little irresistible growl of hers:

 

Darlin Companion,

C’mon and give me understanding . . .

 

I went to the way back

Where the Man in Black slept.

The Highwaymen rode this rig in ’91 –

Think of that:

Willie, Kris, Waylon and John

passing the time of day

on this long, stately, black transport branded

 

House of Cash

Hendersonville, Tennessee.

 

Ghost riders, indeed.

 

I walked slowly back to John’s quarters,

done up in dark wood and black leather.

 

The table is built of wood salvaged

near Cash’s birthplace

from a Civil War-era house that

once served as headquarters

for Ulysses S. Grant. A Southern man

would enjoy owning a thing possessed

even for a brief borrowed time

by General Grant.

 

I leaned forward and put both hands flat

on that cool expanse of old wood

and closed my eyes and saw that

jet-black hair piled high above the

chisled face etched with the pain of unending

loss after loss after loss, I saw

that curled lip and the way he hauled

that guitar by the neck, flinging

it out in front of him as if

he needed to keep it under control and

he was afraid it would get away from him

if he didn’t keep it in sight. And I started

hearing things . . .

 

I took a shot of cocaine and away I run . . .

 

I keep the ends out for the tie that binds . . .

 

Life ain’t easy for a boy named Sue . . .

 

Then I felt on my shoulder

a hand of wiry strength, the hand

 

. . . these hands . . .

 

of a guitar man,

and the Voice grew bold it

was there, it was

 

right

 

in

 

my

 

ear —

 

Hello,

 

— Copyright © 2016 Stephen T. Kline

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