The Girl Who Busked On Dirt Roads

She played, as I remember, quite well,
Her talent settling into some interval
Between “capable” and “professional,”
A knack which would have allowed her
To play coffeehouses at some middling state school,
Or accompany some infant’s lilting lullaby,
But she’d set up shop, as it were,
In rather unusual (and commercially unpromising) spots:
Less-traveled side streets, the odd dead-end and cul-de-sac,
Even the occasional unpaved byway
(I’d first encountered her, during my walking, brooding stage
On a hilly road just outside the village,
At a point where the tarmac took
An unplanned two-hundred-foot vacation.)
She’d set up as if she expected a crowd,
Case open to receive a cascade of change,
And she performed songs designed to please the masses:
Beatles hits, folk ditties our parents sang to us as little ‘uns
(Though she learned, as a gesture to me,
The final few dozen bars of “The Musical Box”),
For which I rewarded her with a dime here, a quarter there,
And, once and once only,
A fiver I’d snuck out of my father’s wallet
(He took it out of my hide, and then some)

There had been no romance, per se;
I’d sat close to her, hand on a Levi-ed knee,
And there was the odd kiss, as much brotherly as anything else,
But there were understood limits, never spoken of,
As there was something in her bearing, her posture, her very essence
Which said This is what is, what shall be, and what only ever can be.
A reticence which exercised dominion over all things
(The whys and wherefores over her very presence an Exhibit A;
She said she lived over in Malloryville, but she had no car, no bike,
And that particular irritant in the highway a good six miles off as the crow flies)
So there was little now, and even less could be,
As it was my final summer of a single, uncomplicated home address,
Being bound elsewhere for the first in a series of institutions of higher education,
So there was no ever after, happily or otherwise.
I’d never heard what happened to her after that,
Where she may have gone, what may have become her,
Unaware of any tragic event engendering heart-rendering fiction,
But midway through my freshman year, one of the town newsletters
(Mimoegraphed back-and-front missives which my mother sent religiously)
Noted that the last unpaved road in the township had been blacktopped,
Which I celebrated, in a fashion, with a bender heroic in intent and scope
Ending, as such things often do, with a near-compulsive fit of weeping,
And my fellow revelers asked Man, what the hell has gotten into you?
And I suspect it was being bereft of an answer
Which had set me off in the first place.


8 thoughts on “The Girl Who Busked On Dirt Roads

  1. I’m there with you in this time frame, so long gone yet so rich in adolescent memory. The images you recall come right to me. The only coinage I collected that day with you off the beaten path was that kiss. You’ll be pleased to know that I am still plucking away in my memories. Thank you!

  2. Well this is legendary; from start to finish; from the encounter along the the less paved road to the memory of it described as an unpaved road blacktopped. I was watching that 1976 Woodie Guthrie movie last night and will watch the rest of it tonight and I have a guitar with three strings and may read this poem while strumming any old chords and if I didn’t say so already, I enjoyed this poem heaps of lots.

  3. Always good to eavesdrop on a sensitive person talking to herself/himself; inner reflections written down by such sensitive persons is called poetry.
    Thanks for letting me share this one.
    Funny how a blues bender goes with beer and an inability to express depth of feeling to even one’s best pals but the best solace lies in an honest poem. Or as the man says: chords of B Flat and E Flat.

  4. Noted that the last unpaved road in the township had been blacktopped,
    Which I celebrated, in a fashion, with a bender heroic in intent and scope
    Ending, as such things often do, with a near-compulsive fit of weeping,.. ❤

  5. details – the levi’ed knee, in particular, grabbed me and sat me down (OK, I was already sitting, but still). strong storytelling ~

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