Johnny Cash

Summer, 2003 / No. 10

He asked me if I would feel bad about being like Johnny Cash,

all messed up, wearing black, singing about the Sioux and walking the line.

He asked me if I wasn’t more like June Carter, wearing silver

jangling boots and eating fries from a chip wagon at the Calgary Stampede.

There’s no Johnny Cash to visit the Kingston Penitentiary for Women,

carrying a song and sticks of chewing gum and spitting tobacco.

There’s only me, casting ballads with a left-handed dictionary and

eating slips of pencil shards while looking at a bar-crossed world.

There’s no momma stood outside my dark cave lodged deep

into the heart of my simple rose-coloured addictions.

How can you leave the kids behind, Johnny Cash? While you head out

on the road building dreams like a fire full of sticks and burnt matches.

I can’t forget them. Even though I fill my dreams with the Grand Ole Opry,

Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Stompin’ Tom, the Stanley Brothers, and Tom Jackson.

Late at night, I think I am Morag Gunn, living in thirty-degrees-below weather,

wishing I could hear the crickets that sound like Memphis, Tennessee.

Late at night I think I am June Carter, spending hard times singing

for the souls incarcerated, singing with you, Johnny Cash.

See, it’s just like I said, there’s no momma stood up outside this window,

this empty window, to save me from throwing away my own self.

Late at night you asked me what we should name the baby, in purgatory,

left to its own devices, history. “Rosanne” is what I said.

“Rosanne,” I said, and she’ll grow up to look just like me, with a touch

of you, with a guitar and a swing step, broken voice and a gun.

Looking just like me, Johnny Cash.

Deanna McFadden recently bought a fixer-upper in the Village of Brockton. Currently, not losing her mind is on the top of her list of priorities. She has contributed to the magazine since 1999. Last updated summer, 2006.