Songs of Towns by George Wallace

hip talk, loose dreams, songs sung

in parking lots, songs of the tribe,

schoolbooks laid out on a farm table;

match books, account books, paperback

novels with broken spines; comic books,

coat buttons, bottle rockets, produce sheds,

hardware salesmen, cattle market men,

auctioneers and german bakers; road

surveyors, men who take risks on the

interstate in trucks; summers plunging

off a bridge into a muddy creek, the rust

of railroad tracks returning to the earth;

clamshells, sardine cans, dogs with sad

haunches and mouths swung open

like sliced watermelon; questions

with no answers, horses no one

can ride, a panhandler mooching

through the backyard; a firehouse

plot that thickens; towns, towns

and more towns; men who are

consumed by them, men who

work outdoors in the rain,

bankers and wildcatters

and rodeo boys, tractors

crawling across the horizon

like snails; men with

slouch hats blocking out

the sun, men in barbershops

and women in beauty parlors;

gods that exist in sullen wicked

hearts; concrete which hardens

in the most solemn sets of eyes;

a saloon in every town, a mason

jar, a stump hole, a chicken bone;

a half bottle of rye whiskey left out

on the porch; a wrecked fence; a swing

slung low from a huge old apple tree;

decent men, decent women, children

who come out of nowhere; their silent

faces, their delicate faces, like dew on

flowers, like clay baked in a ferocious

oven; furious, silent, lonely faces,

lonely as flower pots; the silence

of words that remain unspoken,

lives translated out of silence

and back into silence again;

a silence which retains its tragic

simplicity; like music which exists

inside music; the kind of music

that is trapped inside itself

~ George Wallace

George Wallace is adjunct professor at Pace University in NYC and writer in residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace. Author of twenty-five chapbooks, he appeared in 2012 at the Gordon Parks Museum, Pittsburg Library and Prospero‘s Books in Kansas. Other appearances: Woody Guthrie Festival, Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, National Steinbeck Center.

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