He looked like Vincent Price: black
suit, pencil mustache, his voice
a raven’s croak. If he still loved
performing, he kept it secret, blowing
his harmonica with his back turned
to the audience. He sounded awful,
really, and I expected awful.
His white hat cast wings of black
across his eyes as he slowly turned
to the piano and dragged his voice
through “Simple Twist of Fate,” blowing
the lyrics, wrecking the song I loved.
Inheriting my father’s love
for Dylan, I grew up full of awe
of every holy note of “Blowing
in the Wind.” The pristine black
vinyl of Dad’s collection turned,
and we’d listen together to that voice.
Even then, Dylan’s voice
wasn’t pretty, but I learned to love
the rasps and burrs, the way he turned
not just love but pain, an awful
lonesomeness, to pure black
lines of poetry, blowing
like the western wind, blowing
an idiot wind. My father’s voice
when I called about the show was black
with envy—he said he would have loved
to see the concert with me, awful
as it was. The years have turned.
My father is dead, and Dylan’s turned
out another album, blowing
the critics away. How sad and awful
to hear those songs, that voice
and not the other voice I loved,
burned away to ashes black.
If he returned, he would have loved
the Dusquesne whistle’s blowing, the voice
an awful mourner’s rag of black.
Juliana Gray is the author of Honeymoon Palsy (Measure Press, 2017), Roleplay (Dream Horse Press, 2012), which won the 2010 Orphic Prize, and The Man Under My Skin (River City Publishing, 2005), as well as the chapbook Anne Boleyn’s Sleeve (Winged City Press, 2014). An Alabama native, she lives in Alfred, New York, where she is a professor of English at Alfred University.