Heartfall at Seventeen; Or, How I Became a Country Singer

by Henry Hughes

She’d draw the sweetest stares,
farm-raised and spangle born,
asked out by a twice-her-age
with grain too rich for doves.

What a swirl
at the town pool. How boys goggled
to see her dive. How everyone
said Hot, when the water
was just right.

I wanted her hips in my saddle,
her voice on my neck.
But she had no lips for a hound-rounder,
a rough-tongued boy
in cracked boots.

So I worked
like nobody’s business. Traded shooting
for shoes, learned roses
and words. Sung and strummed her
in my damp basement room.

One June night at a friend’s house
she sat with me,
and I held her
with my very first

Henry Hughes’ first collection of poetry, Men Holding Eggs, received the 2004 Oregon Book Award. His second book, Moist Meridian, was chosen by Robert Pinsky as a finalist for the 2011 Oregon Book Award. He is the editor of the anthology The Art of Angling: Poems about Fishing, and his commentary on new poetry appears regularly in Harvard Review.