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'Clarence Edwards - I walked all night long' by John Lawson

POEM: Barefooted Dogs

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By Tuesday, Oct 9, 2018 Viewpoints

And so it goes

Clarence Edwards is walking all night long

On an LP blunting my needle.

Close by, cast away in Sunshine, La, just before dawn,

a committee of voices riot inside my head.


I roll over and feed the cat.

Old age seems to be winning again. Swaying,

barely anchored, I make my way to the bottom pilings

of the Mississippi Bridge and begin to climb.


Peeling lead paint and brittle iron splinters

Cut bare feet.

Sunglasses mirror the river’s underbelly below.

On the fifth beam up

I fight the belief of needing more air.


A stranger joins me.

His throat crackles methylated symbols.

His clothes appear cleaner than mine.

Turns out he has been living beside the bridge

more years than he can count.


What are you doing up here? He croaks.

I was thinking about jumping, I say.

We both lean forward.

What you going to hold onto when you fall? He laughs.

The wings of broken angels, I shout.

A glimpse at forgotten gods.


We sit together on a rusting cross beam.

I’m a poet, I proclaim.

No! He says, you’re drunk.

It’s air I need. I protest.

You won’t find much down there, he crackles.


The rising sun shatters on fast moving ripples.

A tug boat’s engine echoes across the levee.

Listen up, he says. Your heart only hurts from the inside out.

It passes like everything else. Just stick around,

after a while y’all be able to tell the difference between

the rattling of rolling box cars and rolling box cars rattling.


Maybe you’re the poet around here, I say.

Minutes pass with the rising shadows.

We watch a pair of snapping turtles basking below.

You got anything to drink? He finally asks.

Back at the house, I say.


He carefully stands up then makes his way down off the bridge.

I follow him and almost slip.


Cutting up, across the damp fields, the melting dew glistens.

Looking back, our weaving footsteps

Resemble a procession of swaggering forgotten gods.

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