Hearing Neil Young sing “Tell Me Why” at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, September 10, 2010


 

I wasn’t there, but yes, I was through YouTube,

a silent witness to the thin legs and grizzled face

half-hidden by a non-ironic fedora, that refuge

 

from baldness for men of a certain age. He did not

age well, but he did age, something many did not do,

lost to the war or life lived too fast. I see their faces,

 

fainter than before. The names are gone, but I see them—

the boy dead at nineteen, drunk and stoned because

just one wasn’t enough then. Passed out, tossed

 

like a body into the back of a pickup, he didn’t wake

even for the crash on I-70 that killed him, at least,

that’s what I must think even to bear it. He was

 

just a summer afterthought when fall came. Oh yeah.

He died, man. Let’s go down to the creek tonight.

But I didn’t. And Neil Young, that icon for aspiring

 

tortured geniuses in the seventies now plays

the casino circuit, his voice and genius still burning

among the slot machine’s plinks and tinkling fanfares.

 

Watching the 1970 him playing the same song

at Carnegie Hall, he feels it then too, that moment

when you truly are “old enough to repaint but young enough

 

to sell.” He couldn’t have known, truly known then that he

would be playing the same songs fifty years later

in a casino where next week a young man with a guitar,

 

shyly disheveled, will be Now Playing earnest songs as if

the idea was new, not knowing we grow into our songs

sometimes. I am there now. The repaint is in progress,

 

but I haven’t sold, not because I don’t have a price.

We all have a price. I’m just not sure what mine is.

Photograph by Lauren Smothers

Lanette Cadle teaches at Missouri State University in Springfield, one state over from her home state of Kansas. She has previously published poetry in TAB, Star*Line, Stirring, Menacing Hedge, and Flint Hills Review. Her poetry collection The Tethered Ground is forthcoming from Woodley Press Fall 2019.

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