Some things are never true,
like finding god.
Some things become true over time,
like finding god approximately,
and some things are true from
the exact moment they hit the earth,
like Johnny Cash’s voice
in I walk the line. It still
fills my head in the same way
it crackled from the old black radio
in my father’s kitchen
the same hard box that said
JFK was shot and
Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston.
That radio was true
but not as true as Johnny Cash
in I walk the line.
Nothing was ever just that true again.
Alden Nowlan came close
and he’s not finished yet,
though he’s been dead since 1983.
I still hear his post-cancer voice
- like truck bolts falling down
a pipe at night - true in a
hoarse and rattling way.
Poems could have hidden in there
whether he wrote them down or not.
I hardly dared turn when he passed
in the Telegraph-Journal news room,
too shy to ask for autographs
of the books I bought at
the little store on King Street.
If truck drivers ever read poetry, he said,
they would start with his.
I never drove a truck but
that line runs through his poems.
When Alden sat with John Diefenbaker
in the basement of the Hartland Observer
in the 1950s
and listened to the great man
read his own words aloud
from a back issue of the newspaper,
I think he saw what I did
many years later on Parliament Hill,
a vainglorious trembling man
with a handshake like a shark’s mouth
and eyes so blue they drained the sky.
Dief was his own god
and everything else was props -
one Canada, roads to resources,
the buffalo head in his office.
He was riveting - I’d pay to
watch him in the Commons again
but he was a man with no pure line.