Friday, November 5, 2010

Hoot's Testimony

I got nothin...Ever feel like that? Like you're shrinking—like even language has become a burden, even the interior dialogue, the one happening in your head, too difficult, or associative, to summon the English, so you retreat to pre-language, to symbols. And then, only softly—carefully—because symbols are more acute. They can cut you wide open, yer not careful. Wide open is not, not, not good. Even the slave-language I live in is better than that.

But the thought of it—these few I've gathered together—make me plumb tired.

Y'all agree, right? Y'all agree with every motherfucking thing I say. No dissent. A wisp of breath, from the corners, that's all. Yeah.

Here's something old. About old Hoot, the guy I told you about. Probably not a poem. Too fucking sentimental, no doubt, but what the fuck you gonna do? I ams what I ams, like Popeye said.

This is called Hoot's Testimony.

I first seen Mozelle
at Baby-head School
in nineteen thirty-two.
Twenty then, I was riding herd
for Old-Man Murchisons' crew.
Chasin' after a skittish calf
got tangled in the briar.
She was sitting up on the slope—
I saw her tusselled yellow hair—
and I knew right then I was took
but good— knew it deep
and hard and true.
We was married soon as she
was fifteen. And my ridin' days
was through.

What liars they are
those deniers of love

Hard days, war and sickness
and we never left these hills.
Two girls and a boy still-
born and laid with the kinfolks in our plot.
Ever blessed thing we ever loved
mixed up, in this dirt.
And though I've rustled all I could sometimes
to keep body and soul together—
heart has been a restful time,
in every kind of weather.
Twelve hours workin' in the cotton field
or sixteen at the store,
mattered not a damn to me—
Mozelle would see me at the door,
tussel up her yellow hair,
shine at me, with her gentle eyes.
I was her cowboy, ridin' the slope—
O what can they mean, hard times?-
What can the whims of moments mean
to them that really own time?

What liars they are
those deniers of love

I sit in front of the station now
from noon, to one or so,
when Mozelle clangs the dinner bell
and it's time to wander home.
I stop sometimes, and have a joke
with Old Pete, at the tire shop.
But nearer I get to being home
quicker gets my step.
Mozelle will meet me at the door
tussel up her hair—
yellow to me, as ever it was,
eyes as bright and clear.
What can matter, days or years—
Who can eons hurt?
O, time is just a human idea—
And love is mixed with dirt.

What liars they are
those deniers of love

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