Fall 2020, Volume 29

Poetry by Kurt Luchs

My Dinner with Fahey

Once again I’m a real American, going nowhere
in particular but moving quickly from one empty,
well-lit building to the next, and going out of business
is my only business. Although you wouldn’t
recognize my name I must be important ―
when I considered buying a John Fahey CD
pictures of it followed me all over the internet
as if the whole future of our indigenous folk music
depended on me alone. Finally I relented
and gave them my credit card number,
musing that by the time Fahey was my age
he’d been dead for three years.
I recalled having dinner with him in a Chicago
Irish pub in the nineties, the lowest point of his life.
He drank beer after beer after beer
until when it came time for him to play,
he couldn’t, and it wasn’t only the alcohol
but diabetes, Epstein-Barr, a third divorce,
living in a welfare motel in Bend, Oregon,
and other ailments less obvious, perhaps
a hell-hound on his trail?
The furious ghost of Charlie Patton?
Before he came undone that night we concocted a plan
to defy the restraining order from his third ex,
sneak into his own basement and retrieve
the master tapes for his two Reprise albums,
then still un-reissued. I would start a label
just for him, Lazarus Records, and if we couldn’t
get legal permission we would become bootleggers.
Running afoul of the law clearly appealed to him
even more than getting his own music back out there.
It never happened. It turned out
I had a hell-hound on my own trail,
and Fahey amazed us all by cleaning up
later that decade and enjoying a comeback
that still hasn’t stopped, even with his death
on the operating table amid a septuple bypass
decades ago. Every album has been properly reissued,
no credit to me or the unrisen Lazarus Records.
Thanks to our modern digital miracles
you can still get lost in the steep, sad canyons
between one note and another
on “Steam Boat Gwine Round De Bend.”
Roll on, deep river, roll on.

That Morning

So slow I woke I would have called it sleep,
Your breath so still I held my breath;
That morning you were mine but not to keep
While the sun, a vessel of wrath,

Poured the sullen day into our faces.
Slowly you woke. We quickly rose
And warily returned to our places.
The time goes wherever time goes.




BIO: Kurt Luchs (kurtluchs.com) has poems published or forthcoming in Plume Poetry Journal, The American Journal of Poetry, and The Bitter Oleander. He won the 2019 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest, and has written humor for the New Yorker, the Onion and McSweeney's Internet Tendency, as well as writing comedy for television and radio. His books include a poetry chapbook, One of These Things Is Not Like the Other, and a humor collection, It's Funny Until Someone Loses an Eye (Then It's Really Funny). His first full-length poetry collection, Falling in the Direction of Up, is forthcoming from Sagging Meniscus Press.