Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A ghost story

Walker Evans
Image: Walker Evans

Darling Cora - B. F. Shelton

One morning a man walks up the mountain carrying a banjo. He stops at the edge of the yard and calls you by name, "Cora" (though he is a stranger), "Cora, I've written you a song." You study him uneasy from the lean-to, then bend to wash your hands, raw and red from early-day chores. As your mama's wedding ring tings against the metal basin, you test the tip of your work boot against the barrel of your .45 on the floor. But he stays put, respectful. Unlike those government men.

You wipe your hands on your skirt and step into the yard, decided. "C'mon then." He shuffles closer, but not too close. Then lifts his banjo and begins his song. You know right away that this is not a song for you, this parched and fluttering thing, this dry gasp of desire and ruin. Though the man sings "Cora" as "Cor-ay," familiar as a kinsman would, he is still a stranger and this is not a song for you. Though his banjo hums hypnotic, becoming purple and pacific as the encircling hills, this is not a lullaby. Or a love song. This is not a song for you.

But it is a song about you. And when the song ends abruptly, you're ready, resigned. "You've come to kill me," you say, weary of running. "Alright then."

The man smiles mirthless, shaking his head, avoiding your eyes. He lifts his arm slow and points to the meadow behind you. And when you look, you see something you hadn't earlier: a furrow of dirt the length of a man. A furrow the length of a woman. And creeping closer you understand that it is not a furrow so much as loose earth heaped high to mark a fresh-filled grave.

"Cora, my pretty, my dear" the man whispers, close now. "Cora, my darling ... you're already dead."

From The Music of Kentucky: Early American Rural Classics 1927-37, Vol. 1 (Amazon: US, UK, eMusic).

Also: You need to go over to Marathonpacks and read Bizarre Concert Experiences, Vol. 1. I contributed a little (well, sort of long) something, as did some other super smart and interesting music and music blogger folks.


Anonymous David said...

Another great tale and a fantastic song!

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Neil said...

Fantastic piece of writing.

5:19 PM  

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