National Poetry Month: Addition to Personal Favorites Anthology

April is National Poetry Month, a celebration largely subdued by the nation’s battle with COVID-19, but also an ever-present comfort in a time of social distancing. Reading poetry or writing poetry, like any creative art, is largely a solo activity, though readings of poetry can be lively and exciting times for gatherings and delight.

I am particularly aware of the anxiety associated with this deadly pandemic at this time because, as most are aware, the elderly are among the most susceptible to coronavirus. Yes, I am in the susceptible group, but I also have a sister 12 years my senior who is being cared for in an assisted living facility more than a 10-hour drive from where my wife and I are practicing social self-withdrawal. Fortunately, she has a son and daughter and grandchildren much closer than us.

My selected poem for this entry is the product of a contemporary troubadour. Merriam-Webster defines a troubadour as “one of a class of lyric poets and poet-musicians often of knightly rank who flourished from the 11th to the end of the 13th century.” The added definition is “a singer especially of folk songs.”

Keep in mind that during those “flourishing” times, most people could not read or write. Music became a companion of stained-glass windows in grand cathedrals and traveling dramatic shows in telling the stories of the times. Troubadours typically sang and played a stringed instrument, and often created their own tunes.

On April 7 of this year, one of America’s finest troubadours succumbed to COVID-19 at the age of 73. John Prine, considered by many to be one of the finest songwriters of modern times, wrote and recorded a song I think could be the challenge song of the age of COVID-19. Here are the lyrics to Prine’s song “Hello in There,” my selection for addition to my anthology of favorite poems:

Hello in There
By John Prine

We had an apartment in the city;
me and Loretta liked living there.
Well, it’s been years since the kids have grown
a life of their own—
left us alone.

John and Linda live in Omaha,
and Joe is somewhere on the road,
and we lost Davy in the Korean war,
and I still don’t know what for—
don’t matter anymore.

Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger,
and old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day;
old people just grow lonesome
waiting for someone to say,
“Hello in there, hello.”

Me and Loretta, we don’t talk much more;
she sits and stares through the back-door screen.
And all the news just repeats itself
like some forgotten dream
that we’ve both seen.

Someday, I’ll go and call up Rudy.
We worked together at the factory.
But what could I say if he asks “What’s new?”
“Nothin’, what’s with you?
Nothin’ much to do.”

Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger,
and old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day;
old people just grow lonesome
waiting for someone to say,
“Hello in there, hello.”

So, if you’re out walking down the street sometime
and spot some hollow ancient eyes;
please don’t just pass ‘em by and stare
as if you didn’t care.
Say, “Hello, in there, hello.”

(Source: LyricFind)
Songwriter: John Prine (1942-2020)
“Hello In There”
lyrics copyright Warner Chappell Music, Inc.
[Layout & Editing: ARAndrews]

[To Listen to Prine in Concert, click this link: ]

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