Dirt Red Sun
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Red Dirt Farm
Beneath sunrise and a little bit left there’s not too much to tell about, except for lawmakers and bankers like a street gang trying to push us out. The auctioneer keeps driving by; daddy said it would get this way. I’m just as proud of my Kansas farm as I am of my last name. I spend my days fixing fence; they question my significance. I work the land where I was born, growing milo, wheat and corn. I plow and plant and fertilize; I’m cursed by the women, the weeds and the rye. The only time I see the lights of town is on Friday nights when the sun goes down. I’ll work these fields until I’m dead, round and round the old homestead. With calloused hands and these two arms, I’ll never leave the red dirt farm. There’s a long stretch of blacktop near the hollow I call home. There’s eighty acres and a corner post my grandfather set long ago. The weak and the rusty wires on the fence fall down while that post still stands. They can take the cattle and the ground from me, but they’ll never take the family brand. The elevator girls make harvest worthwhile. I pull across her scales; she gives me a smile. I watch her skinny legs in the mirror as she probes my load. She writes her age on the ticket and I’m back on the road.
My twang caught up with me as I found my paradigm. My accent didn’t cost enough. I didn’t have a way to make it through the brine to become the tide that she’s dreaming of. She thinks about the ocean sometimes. She misses the wind blowing in her hair. She’ll always be a far off shore to me and mine. Would my clandestine feelings take me there. She swam out into the sea; she said she’s way too good for me. I just mope on the shore with the rocks and the waves. What’s more, this metaphor is drowning me and it’s forcing a love, under protest, to behave. She’s got her own little archipelago where she keeps the dock under lock and key. She’s safe and sound from everyone she’s ever known and this white-capped calamity is taunting me on the beach.
Folk Singer’s Defense
A romantic, she called me, about an inch neigh from the bottom of my scotch glass. It was 4 a.m. on a Tuesday. We just sat and drank and watched the stars pass. She said, “I don’t like your music. To your folk songs I can’t dance.” I said, “Let me wring your heart. Give my thoughts a chance.” I try to write a song in every key. I try to sing in tune to a pleasant melody, but it’s not the music that makes them laugh and cry. It’s the words to the story that tells them about my life. A poor damn fool, she called me. She said, “You could be a big star if you’d just try.” I said, “It’s not the money. I’m happy to play here for free in the dim light. When the spotlight’s on that lead guitar and I’m drowned out by the drums, the words don’t seem to matter much and then what good have I done?” My friends are all big stars now and I hear them on the radio playing, but they mumble all the words. I can’t know what they’re saying. I’ll just keep on searching for a story to tell. As far as inspiration goes, I told her she was doing well.
I busted my knuckles on the side of my combine, Massey Ferguson broken down again. I took it out on that bearing with a nine pound sledge and the force of a south Kansas wind. I can hear the straw popping and drying in the sun. It’ll be ready to go before long. When the dew lifts up I’ll climb right on up in the cab where I belong. I’m cutting wheat on the old home place where the bushels keep rolling in. Another round on a red dirt farm, I’ll steer it straight into the wind. I’m going round and round until the bin gets full. Back and forth with the engine whine, terrace and corner — keep that line. I’m living 24 feet at a time. I order up another thermos of coffee to keep my eyes from shutting down. Caffeine and nicotine, the only diet for me as the shadows grow long on the ground. The dirt red sun looks as tired as I do. The Gyp Hills put it to sleep. I turn on my lights. I throw in a chew. I put the header back into the wheat. I put a hole in the block of my big red combine in the summer of 2003. As I walked to the truck I broke down and cried. That machine was like a brother to me. All my friends said, “Go green and buy a John Deere.” I told them they could go straight to hell. Come June the next year, my 860 and me came pulling back in the field.
I played the bar last night and I sang about you. Every song I sang started with your name. I know you couldn’t hear me because you’re so far away. I sang for you to come back anyway. All the letters that I send go unanswered. All the messages I leave for you go unreturned. I don’t know how I can create the catalyst and build a bridge to cross that you won’t burn. If I don’t cry tonight I’ll cry tomorrow, somewhere in the miles that stretch between you and me. Every bar is another chance that you just might be there, and every show is another you don’t see. I’m strung out on the road but I keep on driving. It’s an expensive four lane drug that I just have to take. The highway doesn’t care about the stories that I tell, and if it did you’d still be far away. I have another show tonight at Buster’s. It’s one that I don’t think I can play without your ghost, the one whom I created from what I recall of you. She sits in the corner booth at every show.
The fence post doesn’t know your name. The barbed wire still rusts in the rain. I tell my troubles to the bull, but he’s got his cows. The dirt road goes on out of sight. The stars come out but they’ve got their light. None of them seem to care where you are now. When you left me to fend all by myself, I found some cowgirls all in good health, but none of them ever thought as well as you. So I gave them up and bought a farm. Now I’m thinking that these arms will never get to hold anybody new. Another post goes into the hole I dug, and I look at my dog and he gives me a shrug. He says “Aaron, you’re hearing voices in your head.” But its your voice that I’m hearing all the time. Like a record player skipping in my mind, I still recall every word you ever said. I get in my combine and drive away to the top terrace calling from across the waterway. I think I will write a song with my pad and pen. This one time, I had a good rhyme but I left it behind because it was all in my mind, just like the thought of ever seeing you again. My truck runs like an old lame dog. I would be living high if I could find a hog. The wheels in my mind keep turning like a wobble box. I should drink a lot, because that’d make sense, but I can’t because all my money is spent. I sold all of your stuff and I went and bought a box of rocks. I’d spend my time taking pills if I could only afford those pharmacy bills. I think I’ll sit at home and stare at the cracks.
Getting Over You Again
When I’m alone at night, thoughts of you pervade. You fill my mind and my dreams invade. Just about the time I start to forget your touch, finding even your socks – or an earring – hurts too much. You just stepped over the rest of my heart, and I knew better than to let you back in. My mind can’t control how feelings stop and start. I’m sitting here alone getting over you again. Your high-class perfume lingers on the pillow case. I can’t wash it; it’s all that hides the hurt in my face. There’s barely a woman I pass who doesn’t strike a chord. Sweet illusions of you dance beneath the fleeting sounds of your words. You hurt me once. Well, shame! Shame on you. You hurt me twice. That ain’t right. Here I am, my thoughts a blur, wishing you’d come through my door.
200 Miles Away
I hear the coyotes calling. Their melancholy pierces the night. I feel the wheat fields waving, calling me in their collective spite. I know tomorrow morning fate will dictate my part, but I never believed in fate because I know the coyote’s heart. You’re 200 miles away on the other side of the state, and I’m going round and round in a wheat field to beat the rain. The sun goes down; it won’t matter much. We’ll keep on cutting until the straw gets tough. I’ll be free when we get through. I’ll head back to town and back to you. Outside the chaff is blowing. Inside my muscles ache. Outside the sun is setting; in it I see your face. I’ll be damned if I left before the harvest moon assumes a crescent shape. I’d hit the road with the hammer down if only I could these fetters break. I see the storm clouds rolling – Oklahoma’s gift, the rain. I see the weather, unlike you, never minded the grain. The squall line across my field moves just like your life crossed mine. As I unroll the tarp I think I should have been done in time.
A little better — a little easier is fortune when I’m drowning in someone and I’m sinking down. A little tether would stop the forward motion and keep me from falling from my higher ground. Its another broken memory. Though it tried not to break, somehow it always seems to be just another mistake. I crossed the lines she drew for me. Her patience only lasted a while. That’s why now all I ever see is her patronizing smile. A little colder after each successive call, then she warms back up. We try it again, a little older from the hard morning pitfalls, all the sedatives and the mess I’m in. You’d think some day I’d get callouses on my heart and spend more time thinking about whom I let in. Maybe next time she’ll try to smile, but I’ll say, “No.” That would never happen if she’d come back again.
You could accuse me of so many things, and you’d even be right – no defense could I bring. I am not scared, and what means more than your touch? You tell me you love me, and I believe you so much. The face that you love can’t be the same one I see every day in the mirror looking back at me. When I close my eyes, I know that you’d want to go if only you knew what that mirror knows. When you look in my eyes, I am so afraid that maybe you’ll find what my face can betray. In fact, that doubt must be there, but somehow the fear you don’t mind. If only, like your love, that mirror were blind.
I am a Democrat, both by choice and birth. My daddy taught me how to tax and spend and what a bleeding heart is worth. Though I stand just a little bit left and pledge allegiance to the DNC, I don’t think that a liberal lady is the kind of girl for me. I want to love a republican even if we don’t agree. She’d be my better half and I’d be her moral majority. I know love isn’t partisan. I want to love a republican. I don’t want lower taxes or creation in my public schools. Yes, I wanna take your guns away. The first amendment is my golden rule. I didn’t like President Bush. I thought his warmongering was wrong, but if they were hot I couldn’t find a thing wrong with his daughters, his wife or his mom.