The Poet Game - Greg Brown

    Down by the river junior year
    walking with my girl,
    and we came upon a place
    there in the tall grass where a couple
    had been making love
    and left the mark of their embrace.
    I said to her, "Looks like they had some fun."
    She said to me, "Let's do the same."
    and still I taste her kisses
    and her freckles in the sun
    when I play the poet game.

    A young man down in hill country
    inthe year of '22
    went to see his future bride.
    She lived in a rough old shack
    that poverty blew through.
    She invited him inside.
    She'd been cooking, ashamed and feeling sad,
    she could only offer him bread and her name -
    Grandpa said that it was the best gift
    a fella ever had
    and he taught me the poet game.

    I had a friend who drank too much
    and played too much guitar -
    and we sure got along.
    Reel-to-reels rolled across
    the country near and far
    with letters poems and songs..
    but these days he don't talk to me
    and he won't tell me why.
    I miss him every time i say his name.
    I don't know what he's doing
    or why our friendship died
    while we played the poet game.

    The fall rain was pounding down
    on an old New Hampshire mill
    and the river wild and high.
    I was talking to her while leaves blew down
    like a sudden chill -
    there was wildness in her eyes.
    We made love like we'd been waiting
    all of our lives for this -
    Strangers know no shame -
    But she had to leave at dawn
    and with a sticky farewell kiss
    left me to play the poet game.

    I watched my country turn into
    a coast-to-coast strip mall
    and I cried out in a song:
    if we could do all that in thirty years,
    then please tell me you all -
    why does good change take so long?
    Why does the color of your skin
    or who you choose to love
    still lead to such anger and pain?
    And why do I think it's any help
    for me to still dream of
    playing the poet game?

    Sirens wail above the fields -
    another soul gone down -
    another Sun about to rise.
    I've lost track of my mistakes,
    like birds they fly around
    and darken half of my skies.
    To all of those I've hurt -
    I pray you'll forgive me.
    I to you will freely do the same.
    so many things I didn't see,
    with my eyes turned inside,
    playing the poet game.

    I walk out at night to take a leak
    underneath the stars -
    oh yeah that's the life for me.
    There's Orion and the Pleiades
    and I guess that must be Mars -
    all as clear as we long to be.
    I've sung what I was given -
    some was bad and some was good.
    I never did know from where it came
    and if I had it all to do again
    I am not sure I would
    play the poet game.

    Copyright © 1994 Brown-Feldman Publishing


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