Back then, we knew
were for you—
for VFW and KC halls,
old and scratched hardwood floors
topped with too-little sawdust
and the steady beat of a too-loud bass.
We’d watch Hee Haw,
sink into our beanbag chairs,
feel the anticipation of your evening
in the crisp musky scents
of perfume and hairspray
drifting down the hall from the bedroom.
Was it White Diamonds and Breck?
These are the details that have begun
to slip away
as I am now the age you were
But what doesn’t slip away is that—
I thought you were far prettier than the prettiest
of the country music stars,
Loretta and Tammy and Dolly,
and yet your life, too: a ballad set to
the whine of steel guitars.
Daddy would shine his boots
as he waited for you in the kitchen
and even though he never said:
“You look amazing,”
(and we told him to)
we could see his eyes soften
when you walked into the room—
slim-fitting pants (to show off your curves)
flowing blouse (comfortable for jitter-bugging)
and your worn-smooth, suede moccasins
that slid across dance floors
like soft butter on warm bread.
we knew, once you were there
you’d request songs from the band,
make them stop and bend down to you,
to listen from the stage.
They knew you well—
your smile, your sway,
Conway, Charlie, Moe, Patsy
I wanted your drive,
your easy charm.
I’m quite jealous of that
Saturday Night You,
that woman who could
let go of bills, baths, suppers, kids
and embrace the joy of a two-step,
a drink setup, a Freddy Fender love song.
I’ll ask you for your secrets—
How to make a musician
forget the refrain
just by walking to your table.
How to spin with balanced grace
even after midnight and seven beers.
How to pretend, at least until
the band’s next break,
that life isn’t a crap shoot.
how to make your 40s
(at least one night a week)
as good as a Singapore Sling going down
And a slow fiddle
in a long Texas waltz.
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