GENTLE ON MY MIND


it's knowing that your door is always open and your path is free to walk
that makes me tend to leave my sleeping bag rolled up and stashed behind your couch
and it's knowing I'm not shackled by forgotten words and bonds
and the ink stains that have dried upon some line
that keeps you in the backroads by the rivers of my memory
that keeps you ever gentle on my mind

it's not clinging to the rocks and ivy planted on their columns now that binds me
or something that somebody said because they thought we fit together walking
it's just knowing that the world will not be cursing or forgiving
when I walk along some railroad track and find
that you're moving on the backroads by the rivers of my memory
and for hours you're just gentle on my mind

though the wheat fields and the clotheslines and junkyards and the highway come between us
and some other woman crying to her mother cause she turned and I was gone
I still run in silence • tears of joy might stain my face
and summer sun might burn me till I'm blind
but not to where I cannot see you walking on the backroads
by the rivers flowing gentle on my mind

I did my cup of soup back from the gurgling crackling caldron in some train yard
my beard a roughening coal pile and a dirty hat pulled low across my face
through cupped hands around a tin can 
I pretend I hold you to my breast and find
that you're waving from the backroads by the rivers of my memory
ever smiling • ever gentle on my mind

                                                                   john hartford