Juliana Gray

The Last Time I Saw Dylan

He looked like Vincent Price:  black

suit, pencil mustache, his voice

a raven’s croak.  If he still loved

performing, he kept it secret, blowing

his harmonica with his back turned

to the audience.  He sounded awful,


really, and I expected awful.

His white hat cast wings of black

across his eyes as he slowly turned

to the piano and dragged his voice

through “Simple Twist of Fate,” blowing

the lyrics, wrecking the song I loved.


Inheriting my father’s love

for Dylan, I grew up full of awe

of every holy note of “Blowing

in the Wind.”  The pristine black

vinyl of Dad’s collection turned,

and we’d listen together to that voice.


Even then, Dylan’s voice

wasn’t pretty, but I learned to love

the rasps and burrs, the way he turned

not just love but pain, an awful

lonesomeness, to pure black

lines of poetry, blowing


like the western wind, blowing

an idiot wind.  My father’s voice

when I called about the show was black

with envy– he said he would have loved

to see the concert with me, awful

as it was.  The years have turned.


My father is dead, and Dylan’s turned

out another album, blowing

the critics away.  How sad and awful

to hear those songs, that voice

and not the other voice I loved,

burned away to ashes black.


If he returned, he would have loved

the Dusquesne whistle’s blowing, the voice

an awful mourner’s rag of black. 



“The Last Time I Saw Dylan” is from Honeymoon Palsy (Measure Press, 2017).