Who made the banjo sad & wrong? Who made the luckless girl & hell bound boy? Who made the ballad? The one, I mean, where lovers gallop down mountain brush as though in love— where hooves break ground to blood earth scent. Who gave the boy swift words to woo the girl from home, & the girl too pretty to leave alone? He locks one arm beneath her breasts as they ride on—maybe her apron comes undone & falls to a ditch of black-eyed susans. Maybe she dreams the clouds are so much flour spilt on heaven's table. I've run the dark county of the heart this music comes from—but I don't know where to hammer-on or to drop a thumb to the haunted string that sets the story straight: All night Willie's dug on Polly's grave with a silver spade & every creek they cross makes one last splash. Though flocks of swallows loom—the one hung in cedar now will score the girl's last thrill. Tell me, why do I love this sawmill-tuned melancholy song & thud of knuckles darkening the banjo face? Tell me how to erase the ancient, violent beauty in the devil of not loving what we love.
From Murder Ballad by Jane Springer. Copyright © 2012 by Jane Springer. Reprinted with permission of Alice James Books. All rights reserved.