Radio Cash
How far from Ankara to this—a late 60’s Iowa midnight,
Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire on the radio, my uncle Billy 
grinning.  He loves Johnny Cash, fellow addict, his pouch
smuggled under the strings through the sound holes, until
the cops nab him.  But my uncle’s safe now.  There’s no
more listening to the broken Russian sky, code layered in
code through his Army headset, no more pinching at the
cyanide  tucked in a front shirt pocket.  This is different
gold.  He purifies with carelessness.  He’s keeping me up.
The movies have charged him, Cash has charged him.  My
mother says he’s gone Asian and for a long time I wait for
that wisdom to show, the five pillars of Islam, so long it is
the future…  My uncle is dead in Denver in a halfway house.
Johnny Cash is dead.  There are no more drive-ins, no more
USSR, summer days at Lake McBride.  No more of Linda’s
laughter as light as a wren’s.  History resolves into a man’s
nose my uncle bites off in a Colorado bar, or so he says,
two wives lost, two sons.  Those long stretches of boredom
in the Army whitening to amphetamines and beer…
Years later, or earlier, I can’t tell anymore, it’s still America,
another war.  The men in my family perfect their drinking,
so when the accident occurs and Linda has to pack his spine
nightly, I want to see the wound, that openness at the base
of his nerves as if the wires there might be some radio to
God or Russia, or at least to KWWL, Cedar Rapids,
Waterloo on the AM dial.  All that sound coming from the
bottom of a tin well.  The car ads, the pitch for Hawkeye
Downs.  And then that open wound of Cash, us dropping
through the Iowa night, the flames rising, what I didn’t
know rising, 9 years old, ready for bed, my aunt’s good-night
kiss still warm on my cheek.  My skin alert, exhilarated.
Godzilla in the head or radioactive ants.  So when his
eyes ask me to sing, I sing.  I croon him Cash and
Tokyo.  I dance my raw American soul in his ring of fire.
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