Kell in ’83 at El Zocalo Theater in Bernalillo, New Mexico, at one of our productions . . . from a fine article in The Roadrunner . . . where he talks about meeting Lightnin’ Hopkins . . . “When I’m 80, I’ll be the oldest, white, honky singer in the world.” — Larry Goodell

The Old Man Goes Home

Under the discount store
the fast food place
the furniture outlet
under all that asphalt
is one of the best chunks
of black bottom farm land
in southeast Kansas.
My grandad grew corn
wheat, oats and alfalfa,
rotating the crops by
his almanac and the taste
of the dirt, and there
under that corner
my grandma’s garden grew.
The house was somewhere
near the bicycle rack
and the barn was where
they have that bank
of video games.

Under all this asphalt and concrete
plastic and steel, I learned to cut
a calf, learned to drive a team of horses,
learned to work in this earth
and in that barn, learned
from a third cousin who
teetered on the edge of womanhood
another meaning for kisses
beyond the peck on the cheek
I got from grandma.

I close my eyes and see it,
butt my way under that old Jersey cow
squirt the hot steaming milk
into the cold tin bucket, hear
the hogs snorting around for slops
we saved for them.

I open my eyes and almost
get run over by a housewife
with a buggy full of disposable diapers
and sugar-coated cereals.

The security guard takes my arm, asks
if I’m alright, leads me out into the parking lot
asks me what I’m doing there if I’m not
going to buy anything.

I’m visiting my grandad’s farm I say
underneath all this crap
is the sweetest little farm
in southeast Kansas.

Walking away
into the shimmering heat
rising from the parking lot
I swear I hear
Grandma calling us for supper.
There’ll be beans and cornbread
and iced tea…tomorrow we’ll start
plowing the lower forty.
Then we’ll come home and sit
on the front porch, watching the dogs
playing in the yard, dreaming
of going to town next week
to sell some hay and get
a store-bought hat
to wear at the dance at the Grange Hall.
Maybe my cousin will be there
and she’ll teach me more
about this kissing business.

Right now
looking back at the parking lot
full of people doing something

all I can see is what we’ve lost.