lying on the grass
near the bandshell
in central park

listening to stravinsky            gesualdo
rodrigo            monteverdi
while the ancient stars of the
            country firmament
drift through my mind

like sand through a fence:

ernest tubbs                        tex ritter            roy acuff

their nasal twangs
and steel guitars
with me still

i remember my shock
when a student from brooklyn
asked me if i’d ever heard
of hank williams

heard of him (!) kid
was him            i said

him and all the other hanks
hank thompson            hank snow

i poured them on post toasties
in the morning instead of cream

i danced in the streets of firebaugh
to the maddox brothers and rose

(i am sitting on the rug
of our house in oklahoma
mama reads to papa
from the novels of zane grey
the radio plays bob wills
and his texas playboys)

eddie arnold                     carl smith            elton britt

i raised my first hard-on
at a dance by lefty frizzell
i learned to yodel
before i learned to come

i scarcely like it anymore
(except when i want to return
            to the womb)
and i watch in annoyance
as my private treasure
becomes their public change

i want to shut it up tight
in my memory
away from their prying eyes
and praise
so i could then
for the rest of my days
dislike it in safety

still there are songs
from my childhood
that cling like peach-fuzz
to a cloth coat:

deep within my heart lies a melody
beneath the stars all alone