• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 12

By the Time I Get to Phoenix

Leg stretched as if reaching for the ceiling
in the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Atlantic City,
Isaac Hayes on the portable record player
Nancy W. brought together with the LP

in 1969 after the moon landing a month
earlier and before we went back to school,
thighs burned by sun and calves rounded
in a way that stays until bones break.

I don’t know when I decided to go West
but it may have been in the long slow
introduction to the song in a voice
of Southern blues.

I don’t know when I decided only
a Western man would do but both men
I married were of desert lands once seas
but neither would ride horses into mountains

with me after all the trails I wandered near beaches.
The only one before me to head from Pennsylvania
to plains was my great-grandfather to shoot
buffalo so the railroad could go through,


By the Time I Get to Phoenix

all hearsay because he never came back,
left his family and the only thing ever heard
from him was a Glen Campbell tune sung
by an African American that I saw

performed live at the Philadelphia Spectrum
backed by a full orchestra on a revolving stage
and I knew the note left hanging on the door
said the same as the one

almost 100 years before. How things twist
and turn and time passes and stays the same
until it becomes an installation in a museum
bared of baritone and transoms in the halls.