If I had a son, I’d call him River.
If I had a daughter, I’d call her Memory.
This is all that is left: a handful of oatmeal
cookies and chamomile tea and beads in our hair
and a couple of signatures on books I haven’t even
If I was a biblical father, I’d be seven hundred
years old and my beard would cover my whole body
and people would look at me and think that
I was wise.
Time was the only thing delivered to us by God.
We should never have messed with It.
We used to believe that if only we tried really
hard, we would be able to stop time. We held each
others hands and howled at the moon and wished things
on stars that weren’t really stars, but distant
spaceships enabling human to leave his footprints
on the moon.
The day we conquered the moon was the day we made
The day we conquered the moon was the day God died
and the signatures on the books became part of history
books and glossy fashion magazines.
River and Memory are now nothing but two tiny footprints
on the sands of time.
And I am here, fifty-three, floating on the River
of Time with Jerry Garcia’s signature on Richard
Brautigan’s beard, and with me are the Memories
of a life I know existed, a life that we had taken
away from God because we had found something bigger,
and still it seems so small,
Now that those footprints catch my eye every time
I look at the moon in search of the time I spent
Dedicated to a Jerry Garcia look-alike whom I met in San Francisco
and who gave me his sunglasses for my 21st birthday.
The King Is Dead
To Grandma and Anyone Who’s Ever Been to Graceland
I play mentally deranged at 200 miles per hour.
My head leaps out of the car window, my toe tortures
the gas pedal and I swallow hot steaming air and
pink clouds that bump into my face like tiny bits
of cotton candy. The sun has held those clouds hostage
for too long, anyway.
Jesus smiles at me from the back of my car, this
little wooden statue that is supposed to protect
me. I realize that Jesus has lost one of his eyes,
too, like my favorite teddy bear that is now buried
somewhere in a Mississippi field.
And I keep thinking how profoundly sad it is that
I am guarded by this half-blind savior.
Somewhere through the clouds I catch a glimpse of
Elvis, this beautiful black and white icon I only
know from postcards in our living room, no glitter
yet, no fat. Hi Elvis, I see you and think of peanut
butter banana sandwiches that got stuck in my throat
in some Memphis roadside café when I was
a child. I didn’t understand what happened to you
and why everybody cried when you were gone.
You smile at me with your perfect white teeth and
sugar water in your hair, and your breath smells
like cherries when you lean down and touch my head
with your gorgeous hand full of scars from the cotton
And I think of how much I love Grandma and Beale
Street with its weeping clarinets and how much I
miss Southern accents and peach pies and homemade
lemonade and how gas stations make me cry. I don’t
have the nerve to start the car. Goodnight y’all.
I will sit and wait for somebody to tell me that
he is not dead after all.
Excerpt from ‘Halo
The Road to Americana
In King’s Cross
I think of all the
kings and beggars
I left behind