“John Barleycorn Must Die”
comes on the radio before dawn.
I play the guitar
because of that song;
when I was a boy I heard
the fingerpicking before dawn,
and I could not die
without having at least tried
to play like that before dawn,
sitting alone in growing light,
imagining I could pull the sun
closer toward the horizon with every note,
into a hard and glorious strum
as it cleared the distant line
looking just as glorious.
It took me years to even come close,
and by then I knew how foolish
it was to think that I could make
things happen. I’d been like
the men in the song
who thought themselves strong
but ended up vanquished by
what they thought they controlled.
Like them, though, I’m still drunk on
the myth, and this morning
my fingers woke before the rest of me,
before I fully knew what I was hearing,
and they moved
as the light in the bedroom grew.