the museum of americana

a literary review

Last Cigarette—Poetry by Miles Knecht

When he was young, Paul Clayton played shanties on the radio. 
He grew up by the sea. He could close his eyes and hear the rigging 
down a drowned man’s throat. He could press ear to grass and hear 
the warble of a work song. His professors always marveled at how 
he could tell Johnny’s from each other. My Johnny’s gone, made me 
pawn my clothes. My Johnny my Jo John — insightful young man
He could not stop falling in love. He loved driving into town. He loved 
eating dinner at your house. He loved to lay his head against your 
chest as you sang. Sometimes Paul would start shaking as he 
caressed the highways. His voice lilts off tempo — a man of strange 
cadence. He hadn’t cried in a decade but one day he started 
screaming. In New York he met a woman and could sing in her dead 
grandmother’s voice. He lived in basements and bathed in warm 
yellow light. He shared a coat and an apartment. Something poured 
out of his stomach when he sang and he vomited new words, stark 
and tender, across the saddle of a dulcimer. Once Paul stood on 17th 
street and heard a man singing from his window — he stayed awake 
for 6 days and couldn’t stop restringing kissing and bending necks. 
He liked to sing into a little black box. One day he decided to be 
quiet — he wanted to close his eyes and hear the Hudson leaning into 
the sea. The water was steaming cold so he brought a space heater 
into the bath.

 

~~~

Miles Knecht is a writer and textile artist in Philadelphia. He wastes about eight hours a day winding yarn by hand for absolutely no reason. He is proud to say that this is his first poem to be published!

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