Hillbilly Elegy


Long time ago
Before I learned I was going to die young
Singing by a virginal in a barrelhouse 
I sang of trees, windless days, and empty 
Vast horizons stretching for miles over 
Southbound trains, a long time ago
In Dryden, Texas
Snaking wildly over forbidden 
Railroad tracks deep into the scarlet pines; 
Somewhere inside the woods I played 
Around a virginal 
Tin sandwich in my mouth; and I learned
How young I was going to die having ridden
The blinds of a Southbound train coming into
Dryden, Texas as I murmured
Sibilisms death bells ringing inside 
My head sinuously the train had made 
Its way to a forsaken land 
On the Day of the Dead I heard the 
Wistful toll of bells by twilight like 
R.L. Burnside they rang and I sung around 
A virginal 



Impending thunder on the horizon; 
The good Lord speaks like so His Word 
Is key and in our constitution
It reads all men are equal in 
The eyes of God who created the trees 
Sadly swaying in the breeze, above 
A backyard where I used to walk home 
From school dragged my feet the good Lord
Spoke; awful is His creation
Even the lunatic dog, drooling who 
Would bark viciously gnawing at the 
Neighborly fence post hankering for my
Flesh and blood as the trees swayed sadly 
In the breeze sashaying branches like 
Luckless promises and the fallen 
Leaves red as fervent remorse; the dog was 
Black, awful is the Lord’s creation 
Mark how she is smitten by pure bloodlust
I told my dad he tried to put
The problem off created a black
Tarp to divide our houses still 
She screamed like a Fury remember her 
Eyes ablaze; inimical as Cerberus 
Furiously writhing behind the 
Lattice trellising pipes cranked in  
Green verdigris and all the trees swayed 
In sad susurrus; she began 
Attacking children ripping them 
To shreds how strange the owner thought 
She’s always had teeth why so violent 
Now-why shouldn’t she be? The laws of 
Nature dictate that she kill, pillage
And burn I saw her as a pup
Meek and helpless long before she attacked
A child the blood stained gleaming arch 
Of ivory deep within the wooded 
Combes, and yet all the other parts besides
The death are true-she was violent 
And stood behind gates of horn 
Enmity seething seeking to adorn 
The stoop of my house with my own
Blood, when she began attacking 
Children out of respect for the dead
The owner put her down completely  
No more guns to protect children from wild
Vicious hounds plaguing the streets of our grange 
With their merciless desire, nor mean 
Avariciousness till the pulse of our country 
Died beating like a heart endowed 
With some sick disease ready to self 
Destruct as the moon began bleeding
But still-why is she so violent now? 
When she began teething she never acted 
This way (turns out the dog in real)
(Life, was allergic to grass)



Andrew Duvé is a student in college and recently finished a manuscript titled Theatre Blues, for which he is looking for a publisher. It is a collection of poems intertwined with a short hybrid narrative that bleeds into the overarching theme, which is-of course-tripartite: "theatre blues" is British slang for a gown a hospital patient wears, the "blues" refer to the musical art form spawned by a unique blend of American history and originated by African-Americans during the Jim Crow era, and-with this in mind-one can finally think of Hamlet or any sad play involving lamentation as evinced so passionately in the music of 20th-century black Americans.

Contact: jfirneno@tulane.edu

Andrew recommends Culture Aid NOLA.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Wednesday, December 14, 2022 - 21:25