The Last Thoughts of Jeff Buckley in Memphis
I have that precious and irreplaceable luxury of failure, of risk, of surrender
If something happens to me, then you’ll be free!
And I want you to be free: how does that Presley
Song go? I want to be free, free, free, yeah
Free—I want to be free… like a bird in a tree.
And here by the river alone, by the Mississippi,
There’s one last song I’m gonna wade into. See,
I was raised to sing wherever I was in a house
And now, it seems, I have no house. How does
That Tom Waits song go? Wherever I lay my
Head, that’s where I call home. I say
I have no house, but that’s really a big lie.
I’m renting down here. I can sing in this place,
So maybe I’ll buy. That is, if I don’t die
First. Why so grim, you ask? There’s joy,
I suppose, in my voice somewhere. So they say.
I don’t hear it, myself. And that’s because
I get myself all hung up in the blue, or weigh
Myself down in the freighted churn, heavy currents
That I hope to God will carry me to our unchained redeemer,
My last thought is... that I had no last thought.
I’m just singing along. Whole lotta love! But… But…
The Hallelujah is what you can’t put into a poem.
Now I have no house but the waves (the river has waves).
I’ve left no notes: only some sketches for an album
Of tunes that was, I guess, intended to save
Me from going down, or out, or into the hurling rain—
From the pain that I worked so hard to earn.
Where it came from, where I come from, doesn’t concern
You, but please listen to these wild thoughts I’ve hung
On staves, that are fit to garland the graves
Nobody thinks to visit, in places I confess I never
Went to except in a nightmare, and in the posthumous release
Of this song.
Copyright © 2019 by Don Share. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 18, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.