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Withered Dreams - Linda-Raven Woods

I have the receipt for my dad’s first guitar,

a Yamaha acoustic he bought in September

of 1965 which means it was the gift he gave

to himself when he landed his first

decent paying job. Twenty-two years old,

he must have thought that job was just

the stepping stone to what he really

aspired to be, a country superstar,

on a stage somewhere in Nashville,

the next Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard,

how he must have imagined (hoped)

my mother and I would become

just occasional voices

at the other end of a telephone line.

Then came those long nights of practice that kept us kids up

all hours even on school nights cause we couldn’t

drown him out—“I wanna go home/I wanna go home”-

he’d be wailing, trying his best to inflect his voice

with a Bobby Bare sob that would sound authentic.

My father’s dreams got a lot simpler with age,

as time and health wound him down, as the years

compressed into a bottleneck like his narrowed arteries

hardened by disease—to live long enough to get out of prison,

to not die there, to walk my mother through Delano Park

one more time, retracing the path they took as high school

sweethearts, to see my sisters one last time, to be forgiven.

Then narrowing further still, to

a dry sheet, a cool sponge,

a hand to cling to

as all the songs and dreams died,



Linda-Raven Woods, an enrolled member of the Echota Cherokee tribe of Alabama, earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia College & State University. She is a two-time recipient of The Hackney Literary Award (once for fiction and once for poetry) and a recipient of The Andrew Glaze Prize for Poetry. She was a 2021 semifinalist for The Big Moose Novel Prize sponsored by Black Lawrence Press. Her most recent work is A River Diverted: The Essence of a Life commemorating the thirtieth year anniversary of the death of actor River Phoenix. She lives in Alabama and currently teaches at Alabama A&M University


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