Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Loving Blind

Every year I write a poem for our Christmas Eve get-together at Mom's.  Typically composed of bad puns and play-on-words that could at best be described as "a bit of a stretch," these holiday-themed ditties rely on questionable rhyming schemes and an ever-present pool of Turner mishaps. This year, however, I did a little something different. Remembering all the old tapes I found in Dad's barn office over the summer, I decided to make a compilation CD with songs from each of the tapes.  While the wonderful Terry Murphy took my handwritten playlist and magically turned it into a finished product (I still don't download music), I worked on an accompanying poem that served as this year's Christmas Eve reading.

The fact that I find most modern country lyrics to be about as kitschy as my holiday poems...and thus had an avenue of critiquing things like "country girl, shake it for me," was just an added bonus.
Luke Bryan is ridiculous.
Many clichés find home in the lyrics of country songs...
a plethora of American flags, rusted tailgates, and tragic "loves gone wrong;"
throw in some beer, maybe a football game or two and radio success is sure to follow,
with windows rolled down, drivers passionately mimic phrases that seem unfailingly hollow.

And, you know, maybe songs from our past were much the same,
simplified versions of small towns, chock full of double names.
Being part and parcel of our memories, however, they inevitably rank higher,
gaining significance as we subconsciously elevate them out of a lyrical quagmire.

Songs like Loving Blind and Forever And Ever are permanently etched in my mind,
perhaps a testament to an authenticity often lacking in the contemporary kind;
or maybe it's that I see my dad in the words of Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, and Lyle Lovett,
in songs that embody cross country road trips nearly any daughter would covet.

I see him as the stoic cowboy in a Chris LeDoux song;
the Simple Man Ricky Van Shelton insists others got wrong;
the devoted father who taught his girls to Keep it Between the Lines,
the man with an unintentional legacy who will be Always on my Mind;

the concert-goer and chauffeur at the Kentucky State Fair
(a night spent with George Strait and the five pre-teen girls in his care);
the young man with a touch of outlaw in a Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard sort of way;
the jack-of-all-trades dreamer who Kenny Rogers would've played.

And so on this Christmas night I celebrate not the choral hymns of the holiday season,
but the Guitars, Cadillacs, and Hillbilly Music that defy religion reason.
I celebrate the man I'd give All the Gold in California to have back,
the father I miss everyday...and to whom my adoration never lacks.

And thus, part of your presents are a collection of old country songs,
taken from the tape case of a man who never met a story too long.
He was the cowboy and farmer and occasional ruffian they all tried to portray,
and so take this CD - and a little bit of him - as you go on your merry way.
All the songs italicized and all the artists mentioned in the poem are on the playlist.  Here is my favorite...


  1. How do you do it?! What a superb poem!