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!