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From Dolly Parton to Hank Williams, the Country Roots Music Issue covers the icons you love with writing from contributors new and old! Order today and get a free compilation CD with nineteen carefully selected tracks.

"Our Townes" (2015), by Paula Zaglul

We Always Needed You

Townes Van Zandt kissed me on the cheek
after I guarded his guitar.
He had stayed in the bathroom a very long time.
I asked if he needed food 
and he said, I never eat.
Dark bar, people milling and mingling. . .
From Townes we learned the potency 
of the word “mingle.”
Learned that nuthin’ was not nuthin’.
That night he walked me outside. 
You could always feel his need to get away.
I turned the key in my car as he stood there,
his voice blaring from the stereo.
This shook me up.
In those days, I never removed his tape.
He smiled sadly.
OK then, bye.       Bye.
He was wearing a brown suede jacket.
I touched my cheek in the huge dark,
sat a long time before driving.

When he died, on New Year’s Day 1997,
I entered the Internet for the very first time.
Shocking, how much was already there.
Where did it come from?  
Obituaries mingling with family photos,
bio notes, music reviews, reports on his tour.
I stayed at that screen the whole day,
transported, lost, then rose in a blur.
From that day on, we would always have
so much more than we needed.

Listen to Naomi Shihab Nye read “We Always Needed You”

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Special thanks to David Martin Davies and Texas Public Radio for the recording.

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Naomi Shihab Nye

Poet, translator, children's verse writer, and editor Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of more than twenty volumes. A daughter of Palestine, Nye was raised in Ramallah, the Old City in Jerusalem, and San Antonio.