Glenn G. Coats
Lines and Spaces
Poets are also regular people who live down the block and do simple things
like wash clothes and stir soup
– Naomi Shihab Nye
I can’t shake the song from my head. The six beat introduction on the bass repeats over and over in my mind; I hear it when I try to sleep. There are just two verses in “Wichita Lineman.” Glen Campbell adds an instrumental third verse to flesh out an unfinished song.
The narrator works for the phone company, drives through open Kansas prairie. There is wide blue sky and clouds that swirl like ghosts. He passes worn sheds and barns as trees and hills rise up in the distance. The lineman stops to check for faults in overhead lines. He hears her voice in the wind that sings through the wires. And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time.
I think of the fisherman who is poling his boat through the creeks as the tide carries in schools of bait fish. Who does he dream about? And the girl in the factory who punches holes in angle iron, minute after minute, hour after hour, and spooks like a rabbit from the sound of human voices, who does she long for?
I hear Campbell sing Jimmy Webb’s song. He understands what it is to miss someone, and knows there is promise ahead where a highway fades in the expanse.
hint of moonlight
the river still
on her skin
the rumble of a train
through the dusk
Note: “Wichita Lineman” was written by Jimmy Webb and released as a single by Glen Campbell in October 1968. It reached number 3 on the US pop chart and remained in the top 100 for 15 weeks.)