In a hollow room at the thin end of a gravel lane,
we sit on plain lawn chairs brought in from the chill of night.
A dim lamp with no shade set close against the window panes
barely gives enough light for us to find the frets.
The shadows of our faces trace patterns in the singing
of old songs and the playing of even older guitars.
Two small jars sit on top of a makeshift table:
an abandoned dryer hosting slow sips
of wonderfully smooth Knob Creek Smoked Maple.
We sift through stable memories and verses,
choruses of Johnny Cash and John Prine,
Guy Clark and some fine bluegrass gospel,
songs I have sung for as long as Ben has been alive
and others we have learned together.
I make no pretense of hiding my pride
as he fingerpicks a song I don’t recognize,
a mellow tune and gentle lyrics of love
that sound like they could have been born
in a place just like this.
It is a fine thing to see a gift shared,
for a father to see his own love of playing and singing
bringing such good pleasure to a son,
to know that although Ben has practiced more and pushed further
yet he still holds to the pure joy of good music.
Somewhere toward midnight,
he begins the soft chords of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah
and I lean into the chorus, our voices echoing from pine planks
and laminated flooring, pouring what we are and what we feel
into the liberating loneliness of such lyrics and haunting notes,
scaling the crescendo and yielding to the primal lift
as surely as if fire flickered on the walls of this wooden cave.
It is a fine thing to sit in the deepening shadows before the dark,
feeling the heart of something so ancient and strong,
to know these notes will still shape memory and melody
far beyond this good night,
long after morning’s light will fade the frost
forming in the valley that defines the furrows of these mountains
while we sit, singing in a hollow room
at the thin end of a gravel lane.