Green Hills Literary Lantern



Levon Helm



There’s a word for it, of course,

            not being able to remember the name

                        and you know it, “on the tip of my tongue”

you know it, but reaching for it

            pushes it away, like the piece of eggshell

                        floating in albumin.

He sang in The Band, backed Dylan onstage

            at Albert Hall when the crowd booed

                        electric chords, and in the filmed footage

you can hear Dylan snarl

            “Play it fucking loud!”

You understand the impulse,

            pearls before swine,

                        but the fans’ outrage is understandable too:

we want speed bumps

            on our comfort zones.

                        There’s probably a word for that, too,

but it’s not in the word bank the way

            this singer’s name is, wailing about

                        the Tennessee Hills with the voice

of a rusty saw ripping green wood,

            the same voice that sang

                        “The night they drove old Dixie down,”

that authentic twang of back country Americana.

Forget the Internet—

            cheating has never been easier—

                        the name will come to me

as I’m reaching for an avocado,

            rinsing suds off a plate,

                        flicking the arm up to signal a left turn,

rising like shrapnel through flesh years

            after the wound, renewing the same bright flash,

                        renewing the name.

And there’s a word for that, too.



David Thornbrugh is a Ring of Fire poet based in Seattle, Washington. In his poetry, he strives to make sense of existence, and to lessen some of the gloom he feels as the natural world fades further and further into the past and the future looks less and less viable. He finds life without humor not worth the effort, and the idea of being a poet in America pretty funny.