Picking a mean,
is half showing off, half teasing,
more rhythm than brain waves.
Old Uncle John was skinny and six-five,
half man, half
long fingers around a banjo's neck,
plinking tight strings and tapping
faster than dancers' feet.
Sprawled on a folding
in a ballroom or VFW hall,
Uncle John was all knees and neck
with a Stetson flipped back
to give him room,
dueling head down
with a hot guitar, cowboys and wives
twirling each other, girls and boys
clapping time, watching Uncle John
at eighty playing
the way God made him,
tickling the strings with thumb
and fingers, not many months to go,
but faster than our minds could grasp.