The Foot Washing
The sun lays a long light down
the hill as if a spring up top
is full to overflowing and now
the field is streaked and wet, coming
down to me andwhy not?
I go splashing into the wet grass
like a preacher, drunk and primitive,
saving myself all over again.
And understandably, given my state,
something fanciful starts to happen:
it's a sound, a rattling sound like the clatter
of the weights and their little ringing note
in a rope-drawn window sash
when someone throws the sash up
to holler at someone else outside.
And sure enoughand this is more,
more fancythere really is a window
in my mind, in the sun-wet field
I'm splashing in, and the window is open
and the delicate woman I call Slinky
is standing thereyes, I know
calling a woman Slinky is fancy,
exaggerated fancy, but
what the hell, I'm a preacher this time
and I'm getting ready to wash her feet
in lilac water or something like that,
very innocent and very sweet.
Further fancyrhyming feet
with sweet! Slinky Sweetfeet,
in fact, is this woman's given name
given by me, for dramatic effect.
And so, she's standing there in the window,
but before I propose my proposition
to wash her feet and whatnot,
she clears her throat and says, Ahem,
what in the name of the devil's boots
are you a-doin out there, Cornbread?
A mild oath to my ears, but strong
enough to convince me that washing her feet
was a plan unlikely to succeed,
so I said, I'm thinking, Slinky, thinking
I even thought your window up,
and thought that little shawl around
your shoulders. She was not impressed,
and drew the shawl around her tighter.
I guess you're fixin to sing to me,
she said, one of your shanties, maybe?
Maybe, I said, and fished for a tune
in my head. Speaking of which, I speak
of this affair as if it happened
in the not so distant past, when really,
the sun is going down and just
a little is left spilling over
the hill, and I've gone up to the light
for a moment, and the window opened
in the light and I thought of a song and the time
I really did sing to a woman
from under her window, which was persuasive,
as I recall. Maybe I have,
maybe I've worn the devil's boots,
but not today, not now in the last
of the sun. And for the record, no one
has ever called me Cornbread
Yardbird and Hambone, yes,
but Cornbread, no, not yet.