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:
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
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
— Copyright © 2016 Stephen T. Kline