George Drew: “No Wonder I’m Still Thinking About Johnny Cash”


No wonder I’m still thinking about Johnny Cash
singing “Hurt”: I’ve lived long enough

to have seen many days like this—gray, rainy,
somber October leaves rusting the lawn,

silence ascendant. Alone, I face the mirror
over the bathroom sink, examining the image

examining me: He’s skinny, that hasn’t changed,
has all-white hair, pink scalp showing through,

has multiple wrinkles and loose skin softening
his formerly square-jawed face, has ever more

extruding ears and eyes gray as winter trees.
I say he because he is me, like Johnny

hunched over that piano still more or less
recognizable, yet a stranger, someone I

never dreamed I would actually meet, but have,
clearly. I’ve lived long enough to be old,

and here I am, harping on and on and on
about being old, even my kids teasing me.

And then I remember how I responded once
to my older son: Son, I said, yes, I’m old,

but I’ve made it, something you’ve yet to do.
Now, haunted by Johnny singing that damned song,

I look at me in the mirror and see indeed,
I’ve made it: I’m old enough to die, and if only

for a moment, the sun breaks through the clouds,
the image in the mirror blurs and everything brightens.

And in that moment the throb of Johnny’s voice
and the piano’s growl give way to tinkling keys.

George Drew is the author of several poetry collections, such as Pastoral Habits: New and Selected Poems, The View From Jackass Hill (X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize winner, Texas Review Press, 2010) and Drumming Armageddon (Madville Publishing, 2020). Drew is the 2020 poetry winner of the William Faulkner Literary Competition. His biography appears in Mississippi Poets: A Literary Guide, University of Mississippi Press, edited by Catherine Savage Brosman, 2020.

Table of Contents | Next Page