Walk on boy

Your life spreads around me in a scree of pirate CDs.

They catch the morning sunlight and cast rainbows onto the wall.

 

The components of your soul are refracted through the prism of this music:

loneliness by the wail of a fiddle in dead man’s tuning,

ephemeral joy by a mandolin’s high-tension teardrop notes,

restlessness by the dobro, stretching to a vanishing point miles distant.

 

The blues, your old reliable friend, resonating from a 6-string Martin.

 

You made a fine troubadour in the Texas fashion, which was your preference.

You were the man in the corner of the bar,

with the dog and the guitar and eyes that could never quite focus

on the place where you were.

 

A voice trained on Jack Daniels and dreams of bigger skies and bluer blues.

 

And in these dreams you moulded yourself from a cast of lyrics:

a pilgrim, a cowboy, a long-distance trucker, an outlaw, a wayfaring stranger,

another guy on a lost highway.

These words became you, or maybe you became them.

 

You never let anyone close enough to know which one it was.

 

Your road ended just a few miles from where you were born,

never, after all, having carried you very far.

An end of your own making, if not quite of your own imagining.

Years ago, you sat at my kitchen table and said, ‘I won’t ever get old.’

 

And laughed as I poured you more wine.

 

Your life spreads around me in a scree of pirate CDs.

They catch the morning sunlight and cast rainbows onto the wall.

I slide another disk into the stereo

and an old blind man issues your marching orders:

 

Walk on, boy.

Walk on down the road.

For there ain’t nobody in this whole wide world

gonna help you carry your load.

 

by RL McKinney

For Bryan Begg and Doc Watson. (Walk On Boy lyrics by M. Tillis and W. Walker, recorded by Doc Watson on Southbound, 1966)