Chet Hicks • The Nashville Salute

At the depot in Isola I told the folks I’d be back soon,
draft or no, but I never saw that place again, or Vietnam.
Near-sighted as to be legally blind, said the M.D.
With red ink and shaky he hand he filled in my future.
The Army can’t use you, and tell your folks you need glasses.
The sidewalk was bright and I walked into a pole, it broke
my lip like the old man’s fist, but the pain was light.
I asked for hair cream at a drugstore, plus a Coke, extra ice.
The Opry was sold out that night, so I listened from an alley.
A stage door popped open in the heat, a perfection of cries
escaped, and the long hand of fate slapped my hillbilly face.
Blew the rest of my stake on a girl from Meshack, Kentucky.
I bought her a Zenith radio and squinted hard at those breasts.
She was waiting, she said, for money from home, how
she was much obliged and, deep inside, a Primitive Baptist.
We drank beer until Bible verses jumped off our tongues.
I bussed tables and beat rugs, my mind set on a guitar

Forty years, like the shadow of a hawk, and the parts
I can remember all look like the Fresno Holiday Inn.
My third wife, Nell, says it’s no shame to play in Japan.
Her friend, the one who wears a white bikini and wants
me to sell trucks on TV, the tall one, she’s in town.
hell, I should charge people to watch me walk around.
The Tokyo flight is booked and I’ve got no band.
I’ve had my skinny as parked on a raft in the pool
while Miles Davis throws down – now that is some shit,
you fiberglass cowboys, there’s proof of flying saucers.
Next time I’m born I’ll reach for a horn and get it right.
I’ll leave this legendary Nashville life to the suckers.
The women send me out in tornado winds for gin and tonic
with a large crisp bill and severe warnings about my ticker.
In the parking lat at World of Wines & Liquor I watch
an empty buggy sail up the hill, crash itself into my car,
fall over dead, and God knows I get it, already,
the was never in my hands to begin with.