Old man, I never listened to you
until you were already gone from us
and your voice drifted out of the radio
as if down from heaven, old and broken
and full of power, still. As a child
I hid when you came on tv, man in black
with your big guitar, but later in life I heard you sing
when I needed a voice that was older than mine,
wiser, sadder, more grateful, more humble.
All your addictions, recoveries, marriages,
crimes, conversions, your darkness and brightness,
you crushed in your hands and made into a song,
distilled through your heart into bittersweet droplets
that I taste one by one as I grow older myself.
Here I am now with my joints giving out,
wiser and stronger than I ever imagined.
Old man in black with snow-white hair,
with weathered face, no longer nimble fingers,
mention me to Jesus, you two were always close.
(For Johnny Cash on his birthday)