Sestina for Johnny Cash
(on his passing September 12, 2003)
memories, three years old, sleeping on the side of the road
in rain, under tarpaulin with Mississippi waters rising.
With brothers, sisters, father; his mother in a mellow voice
beat time with rain on an old Sears guitar, singing the line
"What would you give in exchange for your Soul?" The sound of
and roll filling the truck hotel with a safe, maternal flow,
chilled family with her heart overflowing,
easing the pain with song that night, parked on the side of the road.
Broadcasts of music from Memphis and Nashville, stations that rocked
his youthful soul with the gospel, of country and of Negroes arising
igniting with faith new fervor, passing sleepless nights with lines
of blues echoing his teenage moods, and painfully voicing
grief when brother Jack died, loss gave his voice
a hollow resonance inside, whose deep and comforting flow
would soothe the poor and beaten low. In later years each line
of song cried and laughed with wisdom of the troubled road
where hunger and addictions like the flood water rising
in the song "gotta head for higher ground," to find the rock.
desired a stable life, yet never feared to rock
the comfort of those who forgot the outcasts whose voice
Johnny was. He dressed in black by choice, rising
to the call of fame and misfortune, singing lyrics that flowed
through confining prison walls and across the open road.
For love he sang "Because you're mine I walk the line,"
Vivian, first wife who continued his family line
and stood by him until that time that pressures of rock
and roll tours, of success and long hours away on the road
started to take their toll. When added grittiness in his voice,
hard times, drugs and troubles hindered his creative flow
a devoted June Carter propelled once again his rising
During a concert one night on the stage Johnny rose
before the crowd, dramatically proposed with a sweet line,
and made June his wife the following year. Once again the flow
of his career took shape it was the year sixty-eight. Johnny rocked
the music world with songs from Folsom Prison and his voice
became a legend. In reputation and in fame he rode
his face the map of a well-traveled road for hearts rising
to the call of his voice, joined with artists whose lyrical lines
defy the mortal bedrock over which his life flowed.
© 2003 Richard Sidy
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