Head-On Blues

“I tell you, them women drivers are rough on us good folks."
                        - Patsy Cline, Tulsa, 1961

The laceration runs trim as a dirt road
over the length of her brow, skimming her eyes
right to left before swerving back across her
scalp, skidding softly into her sylvan hair ringed
just this morning with rollers. They rest now
clasped in a box like tackle, her house unlit,
her newborn son and husband asleep in tenuous
silence.

                 Out on Old Hickory, in the moon’s black
absence, she sprawls across the dash, smashed
into the windshield, arms angled all wrong. Her
shattered hip rests slung in her slacks like marbles
in a drawstring bag. Inky smoke halos from
the crumpled hood and her brother, piled
somewhere behind the wheel, begins to moan
and lift his head.

                                  Later, when they’ve pried Patsy
from the glass, buckled her splintered frame
to a gurney, she requests the other driver be
tended to before herself, as though an encore.
And still, despite humility, from beneath the layers
of gauze around the crown of her head, muddied
already with blood, Patsy watches the woman
softly die, the flat note of her monitor’s peal a wet
piano warped out of tune.

                                                     That night Dottie West
is there to pick glass from her hair careful as threading
a line through a hook and later, Loretta, knowing
her friend’s got the radio on, sings “Pieces”
from a club outside Nashville, every word a salve.
And Patsy’s sister visits, velvets her thumb
across the broken singer’s palm. Patsy tells her
how Jesus knows her now. Like a friend, she says. Like
maybe I watched her die for a reason, the bandages—fresh
this morning—already scabbing to her.

                                                                                  Nights
in the hospital she prays for her brother, the dead
woman driver—everyone but herself, wincing as she
rotates in her gown. And until the day two years later
when she’ll test death again and wind up gone,
defeated, she masks her head’s upside-down seven
of a scar with makeup the dogwood pink of
her skin, and when she stands to sing, especially then.

 

 

Brad Efford is an MFA candidate at Hollins University in Roanoke, VA. His work can be found in The Ampersand Review, The Fiddleback, Shadowbox, and kill author, as well as at Punchnel’s and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.