for Levon Helm
Snapped off and whittled to nothing like the nub of a pencil
Chewed up and smoothed over, yellow paint flecking my teeth.
Spat from his mouth and landing smack against my ear.
All day pounding the devil out of six lines and coming up dry,
Dirt-road voice of his, kicking up gravel like a runaway Buick.
He asks Should I come in with that back beat, and whatever those
Come in with your lips stretched tight and that pig-eyed grin,
Bass mallet socking it to the drum. Lay it down like you know
So the song has to climb its way out like a man from a mine.