No one is nearby to give lessons, but boys willing
to needle L-O-V-E and H-A-T-E into their knuckles long before
they sniff the damp walls of a jail cell would not listen
if there were. Drummers learn rhythm by chopping wood,
guitar players find a few chords and sniff nail polish
or glue before practice. Since they have nothing
to sing about, that is what they sing. The secret is playing
long enough to allow the houses where they sleep, the stores
where they buy magazines and gum, the parking lots where fathers
or brothers ground them in the harmonies of pedal
and clutch, all to find room to breathe inside that nothing.
The ones who have not driven those streets hear
red lights and blood, car wrecks, crazy sisters, the cost
of living a life you know you will never understand.
Dust and pollen film windshields, a tire sighs flat.
Imperfection might prove one form of salvation.
On the sidewalk, a bird that broke its neck
flying into a window washed too clean.
Empty chords ring out, called for
by natives and strangers when the runaway sons
glare and play their version of a place
that didn't know it had a name before it became a song.
The Georgia Review